USC Zoning Board Refuses to Hear Challenge to Consol Site Development
Members believe board lacks jurisdiction on matter which could now be decided in county courts.
Saying that they lacked the jurisdiction to vote on a decision from the township commissioners, the Upper St. Clair Zoning Hearing Board refused to hear a challenge to the validity of a mixed-use zoning development at the corner of Washington and Fort Couch Roads.
The action taken on Wednesday night essentially supported a township motion to quash a challenge filed against the project by Upper St. Clair resident Jarrod Shaw that opposed the text amendment passed in October by a 4-2-1 vote that would allow a mix of retail and residential development at the site that was formerly the Consol Energy headquarters.
The text amendment passed by the commissioners will allow the 28-acre site to be developed with retail buildings with no more than 55,000 square feet of gross leasible space and a variety of residential units.
About a dozen township residents attended the hour-long meeting held in the LGI room at Upper St. Clair High School.
The zoning board’s decision could lead to a challenge of the ordinance in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
“My client seeks the determination that the ordinance has been missed characterized as a text amendment when it is actually a map change,” said Thomas Ayoob, attorney for Shaw, who owns property adjacent to the site. “I believe the ordinance has been mischaracterized to avoid challenges at a later date.”
Ayoob told the board he wanted a decision from them “to avoid the scenario where I file a procedural validity challenge through the Court of Common Pleas.”
Upper St. Clair Township solicitor Irving Firman argued that procedural challenges to the zoning ordinance are not permitted to come before the zoning board for a decision. He also noted that no construction work has taken place on the site thus far, which was part of his motion to quash the challenge.
“If the time comes when building permits are issued then (Mr. Shaw) can make a challenge," he said.
The board heard more than 50 minutes of arguments from Ayoob and Firman on the issue, then adjourned into an executive session before rendering their decision not to hear the challenge.
“We find that the question as to what the township did—whether it was a map change or a text change remains (the question),” said zoning board vice chairman Dwight Ferguson. “We don’t believe we have the jurisdiction to hear that matter.”
It is not known if and when an appeal to the zoning board’s decision will be filed with the courts. Neither Ayoob or Firman would comment on the next steps following the meeting.
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