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Ross Commissioners Take Up Heartland Homes Plan for Highland CC

Heartland wants to build 170 townhouses and 130 single-family homes on the 16-acre site.

On the agenda at Monday night's Ross Township  Board of Commissioners meeting are initial plans to build 170 townhouses and 130 single-family homes on the former site of the Highland Country Club. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the commission board room on the second floor of the Ross Municipal Center.

When the proposal first came before the Ross Township Planning commission on Nov. 29, many in the crowd of 150-200 people voiced their opposition, saying they fear an increase in traffic on already busy Highland Avenue and Gass Road.

A month later, on Dec. 20, the planning commission voted 4-3 not to recommend approval for a tentative plan for residential community.

Prior to the vote, landscape architect Steven Victor outlined several changes to the development proposal:

  • Entrance off of Golf Drive would be eliminated.
  • Two of the entrances off of Highland Avenue would be moved closer to Wellington Drive.
  • A traffic impact study would be conducted beginning Jan. 8.

The ultimate decision is in the hands of the commissioners, some of whom have voiced their support for the development.

"I think it's great," Commissioner Gerald R. O'Brien told North Hills Patch in October.  "It will be good for everyone in the township because it increases the tax base."

O'Brien estimated the new homes and town-homes would add $90 million in taxable property to the township, resulting in an additional $270,000 a year in tax revenue, after the project is completed in about six years.

For more on the rest of the commissioner's agenda for Monday night, click here.

Are you planning to attend Monday night's meeting, what do you think about the plans for the old Highland Country Club? Tell us in the comments box below.

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J Koehler January 07, 2013 at 02:06 PM
If a (the) commissioner(s) approves the highland cc development it is because they are shortsighted at best. The best questions that the planning commission asked were, "Did you talk to the neighbors? Did you talk to the school district? Did you talk to the utility company?" The answer was and is "No". The follow up question was never asked, "Why not?". The answer is obvious and simple, the developers care about one thing and one thing only, making as much money as possible. Could the commissioners force the developer to come up with an alternate proposal that would make them (less) money but lessen the burden on the aging infrastructure of Ross and West View? Will they? If the board of commissioners has a collective vision, that looks beyond the potential tax base increase, and towards long term health of the community they will say no to the current proposal. Do they really think that $270k per year in tax revenue will replace a near century old golf course; tax revenue that small is eaten up in the first paragraph of annual budget writing.
Kevin Y. January 07, 2013 at 02:21 PM
"Let us partner with Soergel or Trax farms" Who is this "us"? Is there a partnership group with a serious proposal? Have Soergel's or Trax been contacted and have they shown interest? Or is this just fantasy from someone opposed to development? Oh, and there is a big problem with this plan for converting the property into a farm/orchard with a restaurant and gift ship- Heartland Homes purchased the property at sheriff's auction back in May. Your "plan" is a bit late and I suspect a dollar short... "I do NOT think Highland Ave can handle the demand of 600 more cars" "the utlitilies I think will need boosted" "Girty's Run I do not think can handle" Think, think think. There is a traffic study being conducted. Engineering studies will be done. Why don't we rely on that instead of what you "think". But there is good news for you- nothing is stopping you from fixing up houses in Ross/West View, no matter what happens with the former country club. And more good news- no one will force you to buy an expensive house next to cheaper houses in a high tax area. Others may well make that choice but it's a free country...
AnonymousNorthHills January 07, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I do a lot of thinking as I LIVE in the area and would be MOST affected along with the other residents. Other residents are backing me up on the traffic as a BIG issue. Drive on Highland Ave at Rush Hour and it is not good and gets backed up. The entrance next to Wellington is right over a hill so that will be a bad spot and a blind spot for drivers not able to see people pulling out. I will let the engineers figure out the water issue but must be made aware of the undground stream on the property. At Kevin Y yes Heartland purchased the property at Sherriff's sale but that does not entitle them to do whatever they want with the property without hearing from the people around the proposed development whom a lot of people are oppossed. I was giving alternate idea's to use which are far as more feasible ways to use the grounds which would make money for Ross Twp and keep residents happy in the area. I am still against the devlopment that will not change as I would be happy to buy a house and fix it up. Living the American dream!
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Why are you so against advancement in property development?? If anything, it will make the value of your own home nearby go up. It will also draw a BETTER crowd into living in Ross & West View again. Be happy that it wasn't a development for Section 8 or another senior high rise. Also, there was a comprehensive study already completed by Heartland & their developers about the water run-off issue in which they are more than satisfying the need to fix any known possible issues. I agree we need more restaurants but what good is a big empty "Wast-of-space" abandoned golf course doing for the community right now?? At least Heartland is doing something about it & investing A LOT of their own money into fixing & cleaning up that area once again. Sorry, but unfortunately, if you don't like what they are doing then you should have bought the property yourself.
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 03:30 PM
I was one of the fortunate people invited to their private meeting that was held before the public was made aware of all of this AND guess who was also there?? Three members of the North Hills School Board, the Mayor of West View, Equitable Gas, Duquesne Light, West View Water many various developers, the architects, the President of Heartland Homes, along with many other big & important people that were also invited. So the answer to your assumption that "Did you talk to so & so about this?" is completely wrong. PLUS it is not so much about the tax revenue (which of course is needed since Ross has not raised taxes in over 50 years) but more about cleaning up the big waste of space that the golf course is.. It will help redevelop the surrounding community too. The people who eventually buy these houses will need somewhere to shop, eat, spend their money ect. It will force West View & Ross to boost their current businesses or create new ones (which means jobs) for all of us locals to benefit as well. How is this a BAD thing??? Plus Heartland Homes only sells houses by an individual basis, which means that even though they may start building homes, they will not build a new one unless someone pre-purchases the house from them. It's not like 500 people are just going to suddenly show up & crowd the schools or cause the deepest darkest nightmare traffic that EVERYONE seems to be complaining about.. it will be a gradual process over years & years. So relax everyone.
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 03:30 PM
I was one of the fortunate people invited to their private meeting that was held before the public was made aware of all of this AND guess who was also there?? Three members of the North Hills School Board, the Mayor of West View, Equitable Gas, Duquesne Light, West View Water many various developers, the architects, the President of Heartland Homes, along with many other big & important people that were also invited. So the answer to your assumption that "Did you talk to so & so about this?" is completely wrong. PLUS it is not so much about the tax revenue (which of course is needed since Ross has not raised taxes in over 50 years) but more about cleaning up the big waste of space that the golf course is.. It will help redevelop the surrounding community too. The people who eventually buy these houses will need somewhere to shop, eat, spend their money ect. It will force West View & Ross to boost their current businesses or create new ones (which means jobs) for all of us locals to benefit as well. How is this a BAD thing??? Plus Heartland Homes only sells houses by an individual basis, which means that even though they may start building homes, they will not build a new one unless someone pre-purchases the house from them. It's not like 500 people are just going to suddenly show up & crowd the schools or cause the deepest darkest nightmare traffic that EVERYONE seems to be complaining about.. it will be a gradual process over years & years. So relax everyone.
Mike January 07, 2013 at 03:38 PM
How can the commissioners possibly vote to approve this tonight if the traffic impact study isn’t even set to begin until tomorrow? I attended the first planning meeting that was so crowed many of the residents were forced to leave and couldn’t voice their opinion. Probably the biggest concern fellow residents have is increased traffic. About 15 years ago a traffic study was done that resulted in no left turns from both Lilac & Rose Avenues onto Gass Road because it was determined that it was too dangerous. As a volunteer firefighter I have responded to numerous vehicle accidents along Gass and Highland. Another 600 cars a day is going to cause more traffic problems and more accidents possibly a fatal. I hope the commissioners look past the taxes that this development would bring and think about the concerns that the current residents that voted for them have. PLEASE DO NOT vote to approve this until the traffic study is completed.
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 03:49 PM
I agree that the traffic study needs to be done, but remember that Heartland has said that this project would not be complete for close to FIVE years from now. We have plenty of time to discuss traffic. This is an approval for the major initial construction and development of the land to get it ready to even start building anything. "Another 600 cars a day" would not happen. They build a house AS it is purchased because every house there would be a custom build. The likelihood that they would sell all of their purposed houses is slim at best because of the high cost. It will take years for them to fill up the property with tenants. ALL OF THIS purposed approvals and negotiations & designs is just a "blueprint" for their ultimate goal. But your comment could really be said about ANY road near a housing development. Maybe they should look into their options for traffic control INSTEAD of banning all development that is BENEFICIAL to the community!?!?
Mike January 07, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Once this is approved there is no stopping it, the study needs to be done before it is approved. We already cant make lefrt turns onto Gass and right turns are dangerous because of the crest of the hill and cars speeding. If this goes thru we wont even be able to make right turns off Lilac or Rose. You dont write a check out before you make sure the moneys in the account to cover it and the commissoners should not approve this until the traffic study is complete
Kevin Y. January 07, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Speaking as someone who bought an 80 year old house in West View, gutted it and completely updated it before moving in- that is not something everyone wants to do. There is a market for new housing and some people like the idea of a custom built house... I am not against your voice being heard. Please attend the meeting and speak out. I just hope you have something fact-based to oppose the development. I have no problem with the commissioners nixing the development if there is a real problem. But I will be really upset if they vote it down based on: "I had a couple of power flickers last night this means the entire North Hills power grid is on the verge of collapse and adding 300 more homes will cause massive power failure and poor and sick people on oxygen will die if this development goes in..."
westviewgirl January 07, 2013 at 05:22 PM
I’m not opposed to the development of the Highland CC property – it needs to be developed and right now it seems to be the only solution. I certainly do not want it to turn into sec. 8 housing. In response to a few points made by others – “Let us partner with Soergel or Trax farms” – this is a pie-in-the-sky idea and he makes no mention of how much traffic that would bring to the area. I wonder if he has ever seen Trax Farms during one of their events. The electrical situation - I am sure that engineers will work that out way before the first home is built. If he is having power difficulties it could very well be the wiring in his home – not the electrical grid. The underground stream – if he knows about it the developers do as well. I have two main concerns about the development – traffic and the impact of 300+ kids into NHSD. IMHO Highland Avenue is not able to handle the influx of cars. Hopefully the traffic study will give the township some insight into how to deal with the situation. As far as the 300 students for NHSD – someone said he doesn’t want to see an "explosion" in student population. It isn’t like Heartland is going to plop 300 homes into the golf course in a few months time. From what I understand it will take 6 years to complete. That is gradual enough for me. I just want NHSD to be prepared. I think they were too hasty in selling off Northway/Perrysville. I don’t want to see my kids' classrooms turn into trailers.
J Koehler January 07, 2013 at 06:22 PM
I am not against the development of the country club; I would just like to see a proposal that gives something back to the community more than an increase in tax revenue. It may be a cynical view, but I don't trust Ross Township to do what is best for the community and spend the "extra" money in any way that would provide any recognizable benefit to the people that live nearby. It is true that those groups were on hand at the pre-meeting, Heartland even mentioned it; the point is that the developer did not ask those groups (minus the people who live there) what they wanted to see happen to the country club, because it is of no real interest to them.
Eric Fowler January 07, 2013 at 08:09 PM
I'm no opposed to development, but as someone who grew up here, moved away where I gained some outside perspective, then returned after 15 years, my first thought is to what Allegheny County's patchwork of small communities lack... a cohesive, unified approach to regional planning. Developments go in without regard to traffic flow or transportation needs. As a result, secondary roads are overflowing with traffic because the roads were never widened or improved. Some roads become thoroughfares between major highways because land for the logical extension between the two roads was never set aside and is now blocked by development. I see the North Hills becoming choked with excess traffic just the South Hills, where I wouldn't even consider living. I don't know the solution for Allegheny County at this stage of the game, but I get the perception that Butler County is doing a better job of it. Personally I think every new home should have a pricey ($10K, maybe more?) associated with the initial occupancy permit, with the revenue directed toward public infrastructure improvements such as road widening or extension, traffic signals, etc. And the folks who engineer these things should do so with an eye toward efficiency as well as safety. I wonder how much fuel we waste stuck in traffic?
michelle January 07, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Even the best plan from a traffic study will be a nightmare to the area!! Plus there will be many who cut through the streets-either on wellington side or the streets off gas rd. The people who live there will shop at giant eagle camp horne, Will go over to the Target/Sams vs down to the westview kmart/giant eagle. Mt Nebo will BENEFIT the MOST in terms of buissness devlopement.The people buying there will most likley use St Theresa, St Sebastins, ALpha Sch or the new Glenn Montessori school that bought Perrsyville and is a preschool/elementary school. Then after elementary school move out to NA or maybe North Hills HS or out to N Cahtolic or Sewickley Academy. I live in Wellington--My kids go to the glen montessori school and they did before it moved here to the north hills. 3 other people in our neighboorhood go to the glen now that it is close. Most all of our kids go to St Sebastin's/St Theresa's and then they move out, go to NC or NH and our homes are in the 160-s--200's. I am NOT against a housing community--but why does it have to be so many homes--only for tax revenue. Why not keep the pool-make the cluhouse into a good resteraunt or maybe a library. I heard from someone who was out with the commisioners in the very early planning--that they wanted to route people up of from rochester-that must have been too expensive for heartland. I think the commisioners should get some creatvie community things in place FROM the developer and not vote for it unless they do
Kay January 07, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Plenty of time to conduct the study five years from now? Right before they go to build homes so we have this issue again and wonder why this plan was given the green light to begin with? Doesn't make sense. Why overcrowd an honestly not so big area with so many homes? I agree.. West View will not benefit..they will drive up gass road and go to camp horne and mt. nebo. These $200,000+ homes are really going to make the $65,000 homes across the street look better (sarcasm) - The only thing that will get used will probably be the elementary school which I'm sure is already so very much crowded with children... So let's just go and build another school while we're at it so we can pay more in school taxes than we already do. I just feel more thought needs to go into this whole thing.
michelle January 07, 2013 at 09:49 PM
In reference to the person above--The utliity companies/school board/VIP's-- may have been at an early stage meeting but when asked if they were talked to by the Commisioners they said "no"--they may have been there or sent people to get information--This is what was said at the community meeting--And people mumbled out "why not" but no one asked directly in that public meeting.. My sister lives on Lilac and it is a very hard to turn right and getting worse if I go down to Peony to try to turn right. Trying to go out the other direction(I can not remember the street) it is hard to turn both left or right. Again--Mt Nebo will benefit buisness wise. The kids will go to private/parochial schools and then move out--- John--I mean this sincerly--since you have some obvious pull--hear us say we are opposed to such a LARGE development for traffic and SAFETY. The commisioners should force the deveopler to come up with something better. THEY SHOULD NOT approve it until they do--and why not have it route up off rochester as it was discussed in an early stage meeting as well. Most likley too expensive for heartland.
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I agree that Mt. Nebo Pointe will benefit the most - but it will force West View to clean up its act & bring in better/newer businesses as well. The whole "school" issue is really relative. I grew up in a $70,000 house off of Three Degree Road and I went to Winchester Thurston for K-4, St. Theresa for 5-8 & North Hills for high school. Its really up to the parents where they send their kids. In other words, just because they would be buying an expensive house doesn't mean that the kids would all go to private schools.
John Schalcosky January 07, 2013 at 10:57 PM
The commissioners were not invited to the closed meeting between myself & the other select few who Heartland presented their case to originally. Even though I do have some pull within the township, my voice with the developers was slightly ignored. I had to really even plead my case when it came to all of the dead bodies that are buried there (which there is 7)! In their eyes, unless I bought the property myself, I have no business telling them what to do about it, which is a little ignorant BUT in all honesty, they own it - I do not. Safety will always be a concern (as with any neighborhood) and while the entrances off of Highland Ave. are not in the greatest of places, it's just located in such an awkward position off of that road. Highland, by the way, is a Allegheny County maintained road & not part of the township. With the increase in the inevitable traffic, the county will begin to invest in that road. Now that we have to face the inevitable, the best thing to do is look at it in a positive light. I know that nobody seems to like change, but keeping it as an abandoned, overgrown, coyote infested wilderness is not the best idea. In my opinion, it should have be the headquarters for the Historical Society!!! ;)
Kevin Y. January 07, 2013 at 11:34 PM
The proposed development is a fraction of the size of West View. The proposal has a housing density significantly LOWER than West View. They could have packed in a lot more buildings if they had gone totally townhouse or even apartment complexes. It could have been far larger... I agree with Eric Fowler that some secondary roads are getting a lot of traffic by cars just passing through, in fact I imagine most of the backup on Highland is caused by people who don't live in West View/Ross. Hopefully the development won't cause much of an increase in the backup because the cars will get off Highland before reaching Perry. And if you think Butler County has planned well, try getting through the mile long backups on 228 during rush hour, it dwarfs anything you see on Highland...
Mike January 07, 2013 at 11:44 PM
Mr. Schalcosky, with all due respect, I remember when this first became public you were one of the most outspoken critics on this development because if the graves. The people making the decisions to allow this were not invited to the meeting but you were and now you seem to be supporting this. Do you even live in the nieghood that will be affcted by this? While I respect your right to be concerned about some bodies buried there it seems that you have no concern for all the families that are going to be impacted by this. I would love to know what was said at this closed meeting that changed your mind to support this.
John Schalcosky January 08, 2013 at 12:20 AM
I agree with you Mike. But I'm always one to look at the big picture & I just don't like where West View & Ross have been going. I'm a big supporter of bringing more residents to our community to help grow our local economy - that's really all. While nothing was really said at the meeting that everyone doesn't already know - they talked more in detail about storm management, utilities and how they will redesign the area overall. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the building kept or the pool be used for Ross Rec but I realized when I was talking to the CEO of Heartland & his attorney that my voice was already heard & considered before I even got a chance to open my mouth LOL I was somewhat impressed that they DID take all my comments about Casper Reel & his family. They took it to the extent of using a large part of they're acquired land & are now dedicating a park in the middle of it solely because I said something - so while I was pissed about alot of things - they also gave in to my request (while obviously a big-box home builder could have completely ignored). While I live now close enough to complain about "new" Northway Mall traffic, but I don't. I am looking at the big picture - progress for all of us, instead of being left behind in Cranberry & McCandless dust...
brian schindler January 08, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Time to build build build................................
michelle January 08, 2013 at 12:53 AM
I am all for change and grow and development--I am not against it--But I can hope-- and ask the commisioners to ask/get more then what heartland homes is currently offering for the inconvience it will cause me and others living in the area. I do not see west view being developed any better--that is wishful thinking. John--who do you work for--just curious? Time will tell where the kids go to school but I have many friends who moved out of the north hills. I live here because my whole family--sister/brother and their familes live in ross and my mom who is getting up in years lives in ross and only drives to mcintyre square and back---
Kevin January 08, 2013 at 02:47 AM
I was at that meeting last month also and the planning commision voted no in the recommendation to approve it .
Kevin January 08, 2013 at 02:51 AM
John they are not going to build condos on an as sold basis . That would be impossible . Also at the meeting last month the developer said he didnt get anything from the utiliies saying it can be supported . Either way all that is scene is dollar figures in taxes both with the nhsd and ross twp . What was the quote the said the school board make . " All we can do is make money off this project " . Kinda like when they didnt raise taxes for the football stadium but had to raise them for new bathrooms in the highschool .
Richard January 08, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Hi All, Read all of the concerns and would like to make a few comments. First I understand the traffic problem at Lilac and peony. The fence along the Golf course across from that entire run could possibly be redesigned to become a Third Turning lane dedicated to the new development area which could help keep traffic off of the main road. Also a Red Light or two or Stop Signs would slow down the Speeders coming around the bend by Golf Dr which really does cause a Safety problem for Lilac and Peony and possibly the new development. I agree with John that it will truly benefit businesses in West View etc and possibly generate some new businesses and employment in the area. It would also possibly ensure that the West View Post Office would not be closed due to more business. (Driving over to McKnight to use their Post Office is not effective). Plus the elderly in the area depend on the West View Post Office. There are some empty stores in the West View Shopping Center that could be revitalized also. With the New Revenue the West View / Ross Police Force could possibly have the need for additional Police Officers and Maintenance Personnel. One other note - All 600 cars are not going to leave and come home at the same time. Even without the Housing that area still needs some Stop Signs and/or Red Lights. It would be Nice to keep the Big Building and have a Nice REASONABLE AFFORDABLE Resturant installed for all Residents to enjoy. This could be a Win Win item.
John Schalcosky January 08, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Could not have said it better Rich! Thanks.
John Schalcosky January 08, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Michelle, while I do many, many things for work but one of my main jobs is as the voted in President of the Ross Township Historical Society in which we operate out of the municipal building. I was also a former Parks & Recreation employee for Ross Township.
Sam January 11, 2013 at 10:48 PM
While everyone is most definitely entitled to their own opinion, growing up in west view , I realize that it has definitely gone down hill since I've lived there. But the section 8 comment was a bit ignorant and judgemental.Not everyone that lives in section 8 are "bad" trouble causing people, and growing up in a section 8 house IN west view allowed me to live in a decent safe community while giving me the opportunity to go to north hills and eventually become a teacher. Samantha Westin (Moore)
bill smith March 05, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Another Willow type restaurant would be much more appealing.

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