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Ross Commissioners Table Vote on Heartland Homes Plan for Former Highland CC

The vote followed impassioned pleas by nearby residents not to approve the new housing development.

Indicating that they didn't have enough information, the Ross Township Board of Commissioners voted 8-1 Monday night to table a vote on a preliminary plan for 170 townhouses and 134 single-family homes on the grounds of the former Highland Country Club.

The vote followed a lengthy presentation by landscape architect Steven Victor and attorney Jonathan Kamin, who detailed, ordinance by ordinance, how the plan met all township zoning conditions.

Victor also detailed changes from the original plan, which included:

  • Elimination of an entrance to the townhouses from Golf Drive.
  • Creating a main entrance to the townhouses on Gass Road across from Peony Avenue.
  • Limiting traffic at the Highland Avenue entrance to the townhouses to right turns only in and out. 
  • Moving the main entrance to the single-family-homes portion of plan to the intersection of Highland and Cornell Avenues. That entrance will have right and left turning lanes leading onto Highland Avenue.
  • Moving a second entrance to the single-family homes off Highland Avenue closer to Wellington Drive.

Approximately 100 residents attended the meeting, with a half-dozen expressing their concerns about a variety of issues.

Mike Newmeyer, who lives on Gass Road, said he worries about the pesticides used on the golf course grounds.

"If the ground hasn't been tested, I don't feel that meets the criteria for health and safety of the kids up at Highcliff and the people in the immediate vicinity," he said. "I bought my house because there was a golf course across the street, and I didn't think I'd have to deal with six years of construction and dirt and noise." 

Herbert Gass Jr. said he worries about the increased traffic on Highland Avenue and Gass Road. 

"You can hear all of these studies but I've sat in that traffic, it's gridlock on Highland Avenue and Route 19 if you go anywhere around during rush hour," he said. "The people of West View should have a say because when Highland Avenue gets jammed up, all of the side streets in West View are going to take all of the traffic, and they're going to go down to Center Avenue, which is already pretty full."

Mike Andrzejewski echoed those sentiments.

"300 more cars on an already dangerous road is just an accident waiting to happen," he said. "Wait until this traffic study is done, before you make a decision."

In the end, the Ross commissioners did exactly that, voting to wait for the results of a traffic study and for assurances from water and sewer authorities that there is sufficient capacity for more than 300 new homes and townhomes.

The Ross planning commission voted 4-3 on Dec. 20 not to recommend approval, contending that at that time the development did not meet township specificiations.

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Richard January 08, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Hi again, Also, Starting at the BRONX st. going toward the Club - Make a Third Lane for the Housing Project that would keep traffic off of the main road until the housing project traffic exits when all is clear.
Diane Conover January 08, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Limiting traffic at the Highland Avenue entrance to the townhouses to right turns only in and out. That does not work at Mt Nebo Point entrance off of Lowries Road and it will not work here either. People WILL make a left hand turn into the new roads. It only takes 1-2 to start and get away with it and it becomes the norm. There are many times I am coming out of Green Valley Road and sit there because the cars in front of me were turning left onto Lowries Road illegally.
Cheryl B. January 08, 2013 at 02:57 PM
And if I'm not mistaken, there was a fatal accident at that Lowries Run Mt. Nebo Pointe entrance just a few months ago. There is no way around the fact that traffic on Highland Ave. & Gass Rd. will be horrific if 300+ homes go into the former golf course. Peony Ave. would most likely see an increase also, and Peony is already too dangerous to walk.
Mike January 08, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Diane & Cheryl you are both right. I have seen numerous cars making illegal left turns both in and out of there. On Oct 20th a 20 year old woman was killed at the intersection of Green Valley and Lowerys Run. I believe the cause was slippery road conditions. Both Gass Rd and Highland Ave. were designed and built long before Interstate 279 and the Camp Horn Home Depot & Giant Eagle. These roads were not designed for the increased volume of traffic that resulted from either let alone another 600 (according to the developers I suspect more) cars. At last nights meeting they made it seem like these cars would only be going to and from work. How many of us come home from work and stay in all night. Alot will have dinner then go back out to go shopping or whatever else we all do.
J Thompson January 08, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Once again development does not equal BAD. Do the surrounding residents have the money to buy the land? If not , simply let them build. It is an area which could use the money and its going to be a very nice development- the traffic concerns are being looked at and the property values of the existing residents should go up as well.
Mike January 08, 2013 at 05:22 PM
And as the property values go up so do our taxes. Thats only a good thing for the current residents if they plan on selling not staying in the homes that they have had for 20-30-40- 50 years
Linda R. Folmer January 08, 2013 at 05:28 PM
People that live in this area know how bad the traffic is now. If this plan is allowed to go through, it will make it a horrific situation. How can this area handle all of the additional buildings, cars and people? What a way to ruin this wonderful neighborhood! Please, Commissioners, do not let this happen.
J Koehler January 08, 2013 at 06:18 PM
True, but BAD development does = BAD. And the current proposal is myopic; as are the typical responses and replies to the proposal. Whether it is, "I am for the proposal because it takes a waste of land and turns it into tax revenue." or "I am against this because it burdens the streets and infrastructure in an unsafe way." or "I need to maximize my ROI." There is truth in all of these statements. It is up to the commissioners to "direct" the land owner into the solution that is acceptable to all with a vested interest.
J Koehler January 08, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Just because Mr. Kamin can read the code provisions for a PRD does not justify Heartland's "right" to do whatever they want with the property. All building and zoning code is written for subjective interpretation and enforcement; I know because I deal with building and code officials all the time. Just because the R1 zoning code allows for a density greater than what is proposed does not mean that is what is best for the community. The Planning Commissioners ultimately determine what is best. So the developer can blow smoke all they want about how beneficial this will be to all, and that because they satisfy zoning ordinances and township specifications that they can arrogantly do what they want. The bottom line is most residents do not want the proposal to move forward as planned. Heartland can learn to compromise some of their design (and make less money) or they can put the land back up for sale and still make the money back from the sheriff sale+.
MDNR_Mom January 08, 2013 at 08:02 PM
What about the school district zoning and capacity of the schools...the entire district was rezoned and I don't recall any mention of accounting for this kind of rapid growth in the elementary schools. Highcliff will be overrun. Even if the "plan" splits kids between West View and Highcliff, I think there will be capacity and class size challenges.
Jose January 08, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Do not worry MDNR_Mom, your school taxes will go up so that they can build new schools to support the larger enrollment even though they just sold off a bunch of schools. All the township sees is more tax revenue they do not care about how this will impact anyone, this gives the township the ability to spend more money on worthless things or on not maintaining their infrastrcuture properly so we all have to pay to repair things that should have been maintained (example maintenance garage). The school is the same they can spend more money now that is not theirs and maybe put in another mutli-million football stadium, our kids can't read but they sure have a nice football stadium. This will get approved and in my view the last to instances of tabling the decision by the township is grand standing so they can say they did everything they could, but there was nothing they could do to stop it or change it. If you look at the cuirrent level of traffic at peak times any idiot can see adding this many houses and putting turning lanes will not help an infrastrcuture that was never designed to handle the traffic that it on it today let alone what this development will add. The intersection at Highland and RT 19 would need to be completly redeigned, which would cause the loss of busniesses because there is no room there for any widening of the road. Also Highland and Union Avenue needing to be redone. Dont worry they will put in turning lanes.
Kevin Y. January 08, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Concerns about this development resulting in overcrowding of schools in the North Hills School District are simply not based in reality. It is a fact that student enrollment in the NHSD is currently in a long term steady decline. Over the past 15 years the drop in enrollment has averaged 55 students PER YEAR. NHSD student enrollment dropped by 250 students in a SINGLE year from 2010 to 2011. Graduating classses have dropped from over 900 seniors in the 1980's to under 400 in 2012. Some of the lower elementary classes are currently under 300 students. This decline in student population has been gradual but relentless and continues. Most estimates are that this development will bring in 200-300 students. But realize that 1) not all of these students will go to North Hills and 2) most importantly it will most likely take a decade for the development to be completed as the houses will only be built as they are sold. There will not be 300 new students showing up suddenly one year. They will slowly come into the schools as the houses are built. And these students will simply replace the ones leaving. Because if the trend for the last 15 years holds, in a decade the student enrollment in the NHSD will have dropped another 500+ students. There will be no need for new schools (or trailers), in fact, without developments like this to bring in new students in a decade from now the district will probably be closing another elementary school...
Richard Cook January 08, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Superintendent Patrick Mannarino recently addressed the issue of elementary school capacity. Here's the link to our story: http://northhills.patch.com/articles/north-hills-superintendent-heartland-homes-development-of-highland-cc-won-t-significantly-impact-district
Ken Kryl January 09, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Highland Ave. and Cornell Ave. are a frequent place of accidents because of turn signals staying on or speeding cars. Maybe this will force the state to do something with this area since they haven't bothered in the 30 plus years we have lived here.
Kevin January 09, 2013 at 03:22 AM
What are they gonna do reach in and turn your turn signals off ? Do you realize that if they put a light at Highland and Cornell it isnt gonna make it any better but make it more congested . Come up to the country club parking lot on any given snow storm where West View hasnt gotten out to salt Highland , it's backed up past Gass rd. I have scene it back up from 19 to Gass in the summer time . The road isnt going to be able to handle the extra intersections .
Ross Businessman January 09, 2013 at 02:45 PM
People, Ross Twp needs to step back and observe what is happening in neighboring Ohio Twp. Heartland came thru and ruined what was once a quiet affluent community. Now it is traffic burdened, school size challenged and taxes have been on a rapid increase. The commissioners were either not educated, lazy or on the take to have let this travesty of land use happen. Sadly it is still not over as Heartland is now invading Kilbuck Twp. Further burdening the Avonworth school district. Heartland are not good people who care about community. They are a FOR PROFIT business going to steam roll local governments and communities to put the most money in their pockets. DO NOT FORGET THAT…. EVER!!! There is a way to make it all work. There must be compromise from both the Ross / West view residents and the Heartland home builders. Step 1. Ross must set and enforce one acre lot size minimums and no town homes for this development. It will create estates instead of the proposed "McMansions". This will also keep the potential student increase under control as well as significantly reduce the traffic foot print.
Ross Businessman January 09, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Step 2. Move the primary entrance for the development to the intersection of Highland and Gass but down by the maintenance buildings / Swimming pool. Keep it set back like the current configuration is. This keeps the additional traffic flow from hitting the clogged highland artery. The setback also allows room for safe school bus pick up and drop off areas. Imagine a couple of nice covered gazebos and a well landscaped entrance. It would look nice with function. Step 3. Take all of the frontage owned by the country club along Highland and set it back 40 feet. This will allow for a much needed turning lanes to be built in making Highland safe. This setback could also safely allow for an entrance only location for the housing plan. In this scenario all entities should be pacified. Heartland would be able to develop the property at a nice profit. Ross would gain needed population and tax revenue. The residents of the area would gain a much safer Highland ave. and possibly a quicker traffic flow. It is not rocket science just need to get all into the room to sign off on the compromise.
J Koehler January 09, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Could not agree more with your take on Heartland. You probably know Heartland would never agree not to build 200KTownhouses and 500K McMansions because it decreases their profit margin, if the commissioners force Heartland to compromise I hope they see that Ross Twp is not the easy pickens they envisioned when they purchased the property at auction. However, I fear your design changes would actually make the safety problem worse; creating turn lanes would encourage faster traffic and with the existing conditions they way they are on Highland and Gass, more & faster is exactly opposite of what the traffic engineers design for.
B Concerned January 09, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Yeah, If the current plan goes through, we are all going to have to live with it. I think the whole thing stinks. I have lived near Gas and Highland for a few years now and if this developement happens, I might be moving again. Cut the developement in half to total 150 homes. That may be more realistic, or I prefer do nothing. All I can envision is max $$$ profit.
B Concerned January 09, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Ok Kevin. When Sevil is reopened; if you have kids, they can go enroll there along with the commishioners.
B Concerned January 09, 2013 at 06:31 PM
I agree Linda....Has anyone ever tried pulling out of Casper?? You cant see what is coming up the hill and around the bend with current traffic. I have had to pull forward and backup numerous times and floor it to be safe. More traffic will make matters even worse.
Harris January 16, 2013 at 04:40 PM
All the poor people living there worried about the rich folk. This is why Ross is lagging behind North Allegheny. Too many old, poor people afraid of change. Our school district is massively lagging behind NA and our football program has become a joke.
Harris January 16, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Ross Township would be better if we let West View become entirely separate. let them have their own school district. They have been bringing us down. West View is the next Bellvue/Millvale

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