Communities to discuss joint plan for old Route 28
Allegheny County Councilman Tom Shumaker, R-Pine, has organized a meeting of local elected officials, planning and development officials and business leaders to talk about preparing a joint plan for the Valley.
The stretch of old Route 28 - that shadows the Allegheny River from Aspinwall through Harrison - has long been filled with retail, industry, parks and residential areas. It is known locally as Pittsburgh Street in the Springdale area and West Seventh Avenue in West Tarentum.
As many of those uses move into previously undeveloped areas, business and elected leaders need to plan for growth, Shumaker said.
Elected officials from Aspinwall to Harrison have been invited to an Aug. 27 meeting at Acmetonia Primary School in Harmar to discuss creating a common plan for the road and its surrounding area.
'All I am hearing right now is discussions about Route 28,' Shumaker said, referring to major construction along the Route 28 expressway that parallels old Route 28. 'In another five years that project will be finished. And then what?'
Although recent development proposals have centered around outlying areas such as the proposed Frazer Galleria Mall and Deer Creek Crossing, Shumaker said eventually the Freeport Road stretch will need attention.
'Where do they want business and where do they want conservation?' Shumaker said.
Kathy Miller, owner of Dimensions, a hair salon along Pittsburgh Street, Springdale, said a long-term plan could alleviate traffic congestion, including large trucks, along the business sector.
'There's always been a road problem here,' Miller said. 'That would be big in Springdale, I know that. A lot of people won't park on front streets because of traffic.'
Tom Benecki of the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments said local Valley leaders likely will welcome the chance to work on a coordinated plan.
Cooperative planning used to be common and likely will make a comeback, Benecki said. About 25 or 30 years ago, many Valley towns coordinated long-term plans for growth. After that, though, municipalities began do to singular planning, he said.
In recent years, however, the state has rewarded and encouraged cooperative and regional planning and development ventures, so more regions are likely to use that strategy again, he said.
A change in the state's municipal planning code offers more grant money to local governments that work together to plan development.
Mike Foreman, of the state's Center for Local Government Services, said his agency would encourage a plan developed by the municipalities along the route and likely would have grant money available for such planning.
'We do promote, encourage and fund these types of studies for the simple reason that regional planning and multi-municipal planning makes sense,' Foreman said.
Foreman also agreed that older main roads such as Freeport Road are likely to become the focus of development in the near future.
'These really are regional transportation systems that naturally lend themselves to business development,' Foreman said.
The key to multiple municipalities making the most of this kind of development lies in elected officials working together to produce a shared vision of the development goals, similar zoning plans and consistent codes about things such as how far buildings must be set back from the road, Foreman said.
Shumaker also suggested the group of small towns could make the most of their money by pooling resources for planning and development. For instance, several municipalities could share a joint planning department, one code officer or a joint zoning hearing board.
'This isn't merging police forces or those things,' he said. 'This is trying to come up with a plan.'
The planning of Deer Creek Crossing development is a good example of how coordinated planning can be helpful, Shumaker said.
Although the development would be in Harmar, Deer Creek Crossing would have a major effect on transportation and other services in surrounding municipalities, Shumaker said.
Lori Ziencik, Frazer supervisor, believes most local officials would like to discuss a shared plan for Freeport Road development.
Although Frazer does not include a stretch of Freeport Road, she said business development there affects residents, transportation and other services in the township. Likewise, the Frazer Galleria Mall proposal would affect neighboring towns.
'We're always open to working with our neighbors,' she said.
Shumaker said such a cooperative approach can create a coordinated plan that would best serve Valley residents who live near, travel on or shop along Freeport Road.
'We don't want to be pitting Springdale against Harmar,' Shumaker said. 'It doesn't make sense. We want a plan that benefits everyone.'
Wynne Everett can be reached at email@example.com
Contributing: Staff writer Jeff Jones