The Upper St. Clair Board of Commissioners approved a text amendment late Monday night that will allow a mix of retail and residential development on the corner of Washington and Fort Couch Roads.
The board voted 4-2-1 after a four-hour long meeting. Commissioners Bob Orchowski, Russell Del Re, Daniel Paoly and Preston Shimer voted in favor, Comissioners Mark Christie and Glenn Dandoy were opposed, and Commissioner Mark Hamilton abstained.
Commissioner Christie made a motion to table the vote, but all other commissioners wanted to immediately vote on the bill, which was followed by a loud groan from the crowd of nearly 100 people at the .
"I generally am in favor of the proposal, it was just a case of being courteous to the residents to review," Commissioner Christie said.
"I'm disappointed," said Dorothy Davis, a resident of Upper St. Clair for nearly 23 years. "I don't believe the vote reflected what the community wanted."
Commissioner Shimer indicated he was leaning towards approving the text amendment early in the night.
"(The text amendment) provides the tools for the township and its residents to control what happens in the development," Shimer said.
The approved amendment will allow the 28 acres—which were under the special business zoning—to have retail buildings with no more than 55,000 square feet of gross leasable area and a variety of residential units. Justin Cipriani, an architect for the landowners, indicated they were favoring townhomes instead of condominiums.
In addition, the legislation requires five percent of the area to be permanent open space. Developers Gerard Cipriani of Upper St. Clair and Hal Kestler of Mt. Lebanon said five to six acres of the site would be green space.
At multiple times during the hearing, Gerard Cipriani assured commissioners the development would be a good thing for the community.
"This started as a selfish project. I live two blocks away," Gerard Cipriani said. "I thought this (project) would be well received, other than the backyards that would be affected, which I understand...I don't want my family to undergo anymore personal attacks."
Still, residents voiced their concerns about big box stores and traffic.
"We are freezing out big boxes," Kestler said. He said he believed the two largest tenants would be in the 30,000-38,000 square feet range.
Kestler also told commissioners his development team is required by law to mitigate any existing traffic problems at the intersection.
The developer will now design a master plan which must be approved by the commissioners. Gerard Cipriani estimated the earliest the plan could be submitted is late 2012, pending any lawsuits.
During the meeting Gerard Cipriani said he believed at least two restaurants would be included in the development, maybe three. He also said he received verbal commitment from a plastic surgeon who is interested in opening an office in the area.
At least one nearby resident has put his house up for sale because of the development.
"I wanted to see the resale value," the resident said. "What we've been offered is 25 percent less than appraisal value."
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