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Mixed-Use Development Approved for Former Consol Site

The commissioners' vote was 4-2-1.

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."

Are you for or against the approved text amendment and why? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Mary Derubeis October 04, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Onward and upward. Congratulations. This site could have been the community recreation center years ago when the YMCA wanted to build it there. It will be nice to not have vacant buildings as you enter the township.
susan castriota October 04, 2011 at 11:58 AM
I think it is good for the community. I have lived here all of my life and I would like to be an empty nester in one of the townhouses! I can walk to the stores, restaurants and walking trails, it will be nice.
Jim October 04, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Ms. Davis says the vote does not represent what the community wanted. She could not be more off base. Clearly she and a few other homeowners are not in favor and they did a nice job of making noise and trying to scare people. I give credit to the Board for moving beyond their noise and doing what is right for the Township as a whole.
USC for Progress October 04, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Was it ever revealed who "Sprawl Busters" represented...my guess is they will go back to where they came from (not Upper St. Clair) and take up another cause, for which they are well paid and corporately financed.
Jillian B October 04, 2011 at 01:17 PM
I completely agree Jim. Those opposed to this project were clearly a small faction of residents who live near the property. Nearly everyone I have talked with is in favor of this development. It is going to be great for USC. I also agree with Susan that empty nesters will enjoy the townhomes. It will be great for people to be able to walk to get coffee, or shop a bit, or get a bite to eat. Yes there may be a bit more traffic, but an office park would likely bring more. Those opposed have talked about a ghost town there in 10 years. That is just ridiculous. There is a ghost town there NOW in the form of a huge ugly vacant brown building! And what is this about possible lawsuits?!? Unbelievable. Im sick and tired of USC people threatening lawsuits when they don't get what they want. Congrats to the developers and their team. I hope they can get things done in the future without problems from the opposition.
Realty October 04, 2011 at 01:28 PM
At the end of the day I hope all the comments are right. There is no opposition to development, just wanting to make sure that what is proposed actually happens. I hope for the sake of the township that what the developer says actually occurs. But the amendment as passed does not guaranty it. I just hope there are stores you would want to walk to and live near. Or, the developer does not sell the property to another developer that wants to put in two 55 sq. ft. stores (Walmart/Best Buy) and apartments. Good luck to the township and I hope the gamble pays off.
Carole Mantel October 04, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Cipriani's plan is exciting and has benefits--especially tax revenue for the school district and township; however, he can now sell the property to a new developer who could ignore Cipriani's visions or promises to the community. Homeowners along Fort Couch, Warwick and the Springfields are not only concerned about the sale to another developer, we are also concerned about traffic, dense residential housing units, and barriers. Of-course Expert Traffic & Environmental Studies are now needed to determine the final plan. Hopefully Cipriani's master plan will reflect our concerns and incorporate the many suggestions made by concerned USC residents.
Michele Baum October 04, 2011 at 01:39 PM
USC commissioners have made a wise decision, under difficult circumstances, that will benefit the entire township. This is what we elected them to do. Rejection of the text amendment would do nothing to alleviate traffic problems in the area. And no one's property values are what they were a few years ago. If anything, area development should improve them. I live near the recreation center. Some of my neighbors were so incensed by the thought of development on the Mayview property that they sold and moved out. Other people, attracted by the proximity of the center, have moved in. I believe this will also happen with the Consol property, especially if it is well done. As Commissioner Shimer said, the township is not a bystander in the process. May this development be a success story in the not too distant future.
Cara Hesse October 04, 2011 at 01:44 PM
I think developing the area into restaurants and specialty shops, a professional office building, maybe a family area with a fountain, some condos - that would be great. But the thought of putting in big box stores scares me.
Liza October 04, 2011 at 01:57 PM
So great to see so many positive comments for a change! Yay! I agree that it is a move in the right direction and am excited about what this will mean for our community.
Christian Cipriani October 04, 2011 at 03:19 PM
The comments here are great, and I'm happy to see vocal support. My dad and brother have worked unbelievably hard on this project. Obviously it's of personal benefit - what business isn't? - but I've never watched them operate with such a committed vision to benefit their community. This is my family's neighborhood, too, and the goal is to create something positive and lasting. It's been sad to hear of personal attacks, but it's taken in stride - emotions often get the best of people. In 10 years, when this development has become a social and community hub where people live, work, play and bump into neighbors, I think we'll all look back at the "controversy" with humor.
Jillian B October 04, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Well said Christian. The many of us who support the project wish your family luck in getting it up and running. It is sad to hear of personal attacks, I hope for the integrity of the community that such attacks stop. I truly feel that most people in USC are in favor of this project, as most comments here are beginning to show. Opposers are just making a lot of noise, as mentioned above. Hopefully there will be no lawsuits to further stop this process. Good Luck!
Momof2 October 04, 2011 at 03:37 PM
There are still aspects of this development that we need to get right and I hope the Cipriani's take this to heart. How are our school buses going to navigate in a commercial drive and parking lot? Will the new bus stop for the new housing be located at a PF Chang's or at Best Buy? I don't believe the residential streets and the commercial streets within this development should be interconnected. Keep the retail traffic out of the residential living and vice versa. We need to keep these new residents and their children safe. As stated at the meeting, these town homes will not be senior living, they are open to everyone and there will be lots of children living here. The safety of these families, and of the children in the entire community who will be riding school buses on to this property, needs to be a priority or these town homes will not stay "high end" for long.
Lois A. October 04, 2011 at 03:58 PM
There couldn't be a better solution. It puts to good use for the entire community shops, restaurants, and homes, as well as a definite benefit to taxes. It will also create an welcoming view to USC. As to the homeowner who was offered 25% less on their house. Have you looked at the resale of homes lately? Congratulations to the Board of Commissioners for not being influenced by a handful of noisy residents, but for acting for the benefit of the entire community. Lois
Dave October 04, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Over the course of the meetings, hundreds of people attended and expressed concerns. I hardly think that is a "handful" of noisy residents. Whether you are for or against, it is irresponsible to diminish the hard work of those who have fought this battle and will continue to do so. The developer tried to get this passed in the dead of the night and a "handful" of noisy residents fought hard to limit the text amendment and get protections not just for the adjoining property owners, but for the entire community. They did so in a respectful and informative way. Now there will be no 75,000 sq. foot stores and 75 foot high apartment complexes – guaranteed. There are other limitations in place that would have never been agreed to had the residents not stepped up and pushed those changes. The developer is playing the victim here when the whole time and at every presentation he has attacked those who are offering their concerns to the commissioners. That is the process and it should be respected. To try and discredit and silence those 100s of people is an affront to the character of this community.
Bill October 04, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Dave is correct. Let's not forget the 400 plus signed petitions against uncontrolled development. Commissioners Christy and Danboy should be applauded for listening couragously to serious and appropriate concerns which had broad community support.
Jillian B October 04, 2011 at 05:33 PM
100s of people is a relatively small amount in a community as large as USC. I was unable to attend the meetings or hearings, but from what I read on Patch and in the news, those in attendence decreased from 300+ to about 100 at these last 2 hearings. I believe that people began to realize that the project IS a good idea for USC. No one is trying to diminish the hard work of those opposed to the development. We in favor are simply happy that the zoning changes were approved and excited to have something new here in USC. Hopefully the hard work of those opposed will result an a really nice development that all USC residents can enjoy.
Dave October 04, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Jillian, you hit the issue right on the head. What we tried to prevent is the "hopefully" this "will result in a really nice development." The way this was done there is no guarantee. Your comment could also have been hopefully this doesn't turn into a methadone clinic and Wal-Mart, because the zoning permits that as well.
Jim October 04, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Dave, nobody was or is trying to silence anyone. I attended most of the Planning Commission meetings and Board meetings. In total, the township officials listened to probably about 16 hours of public comments which was mostly mis-informed, sprawl buster talking points being repeated over and over again. This doesn't include countless meetings I am sure the township staff had with those opposed to the zoning change. Furthermore, I never saw the developer "attack" those speaking against the zoning change...never...not once! For you to say that is just plain BS and you know it. I don't even know the guy and it ticks me off to read such crap! During the developer's and the township's presentations, I did see and hear a lot of snide remarks, jeering and laughing by those opposed. The credit goes to the developer for keeping his cool while some residents acted like immature school kids.
Dave October 04, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Jim, we must have been at different meetings. I thought the public comments were mostly insightful, respectful, and represented legitimate concerns of the community. Some were not, of course, but even then they were the emotions of the people. Instead, the developer got up there and danced around the issues, tried to sidestep direct questions and take the commissioners down a path that is not required by the zoning. It must be nice to live in such a blissfully ignorant place, Jim, where you can ignore 16 hours of public comment as consider it mis-informed and make sprawl busters the bogeyman for everything. I just hope the developer doesn’t sell and we get what he promised.
Momof2 October 04, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Thank you Dave. Well said.
Randy & Dar October 05, 2011 at 12:21 PM
I apologize for my comment that this was Not a Done Deal. Most of the opposition are not used to, or comfortable speaking in public or at hearings. We were all limited to a few minutes, yet our Board of Commissioners allowed two attorneys and there team as much time as desired to re-butt each of our comments making any of our comments null and void. This last meeting was very frustrating and humiliating. The main reason the opposition reduced from 400 to nearly 100 was because it was obvious to most that it was a Done Deal. By the way, what other property in Upper St Clair can be developed under this massive change to our zoning ordinances? What developer will take advantage of these changes to put, whatever in your neighborhood - our community? Why was this issue not addressed by our Planning Committee or our Board of Commissioners, or by the Developer?
Randy & Dar October 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM
PLEASE Go to "newrules.org" and search that site. This is somehow directly related to Sprawl-Busters, who is doing a great deal to help our country. This is well worth the time. Please encourage your children to spend some time searching this site as this could have some remarkable affects on our future. Sprawl Busters was used to get people to the public meetings where they could find out what was and is going on in our community, and involved in the process. SB are not local and did not get all the facts exactly right. So again, we thank whoever was behind getting them involved. This is a good organization of people who truly care about our country. It will not hurt to google Spawl Busters in addition to checking out www.newrules.org
Dave October 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM
I note that Jim's insulting and bullying comment was taken down. It is unfortunate that this conversation cannot be had in a civilized and respectful way and that when someone disagrees they resort to those tactics and name calling. Notwithstanding that fact, those who disagree with this plan will continue - as is their right - to express concern, challenge the process to make sure it was proper, and hold the developer to his promises. At the end of the day, I think everyone agrees that Christian Cipriani's comments ring true. The developer is in this for money, but also wants to do something special. The zoning doesn't promise that, but hopefully the developers "handshake" - his words - is worth what he says it is and he puts up something that will "create something positive and lasting." The emotions are what makes the process work and like those in the opposition, the developer had emotions about these issues as well.
Jim October 05, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Hey Dave, I will have a civilized and respectful conversation until the cows come home. But when people start spreading the BS around about what other people have said or done, I am not afraid to call them on it. I called you on your BS without any bad language or "name calling" (more examples of BS). It's a shame censorship will keep others from knowing that the comment was satirical in nature and nothing more. Hope it's nice and sunny in your world today :)
Dave October 05, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Jim, go through my comments and point out one piece of BS I have spread. You are unlikely to find any as my comments are true, accurate, and exactly what happened at the meeting. I agree there was misinformation spread about the development. I wonder whether you would admit the truth that the developer is not bound by anything other than his work. I hope your trust in the developer is well founded and the community isn't taken for a ride. There is nothing to stop that from happening.
M L spazok December 10, 2011 at 01:06 AM
I am thankful I do not live in the perimeter area as there will be 6AM trash pickup, aromatic rest fumes, and traffic, traffic, traffic. its the holiday season and the traffic is super congested, intersections blocks, speeding red light runners etc. Am looking forward to high end retail such as Chanel, Escada, Bulgari etc. No dollar bargain or big box store for USC. Lets look on the bright side, Now we will have a "cut thru" to avoid all that traffic!!
eileen kenny November 15, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I think this will be great for the community. My only concern is that the architecture should compliment and enhance the surrounding neighborhood. Too often that aspect of development seems to be ignored in the county.

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