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Ross Planning Commission: Yes to Northway Rezoning, No to Highland CC Homes Plan, Yes to Cemetery Lane Townhouses

None of the recommendations is binding with the final decision in the hands of the Ross board of Commissioners.

Heartland Homes Development

The Ross Township Planning Commission voted 4-3 Thursday night not to recommend tentative approval for a planned residential development of the former Highland Country Club property. 

  

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 next step will be a public hearing on the revised proposal before the Ross Township board of commissioners on Jan. 7.

Northway Elementary Rezoning

The planning commission did recommend rezoning the site of the former Northway Elementary school from residential to commercial.

A key change in that plan was the elimination of a proposed entrance to the mall from the intersection of Brown's Lane and Marie Drive, where the current entrance to the school exists.

Gary O'Nesti, Special Projects Director for Levey and Company, admitted that he heard "loud and clear" from neighbors at a Dec. 5 meeting that an entrance at that location was not in the best interest of residents living along Brown's Lane.

Other key points from O'Nesti's presentation:

  • Discussions with potential tenants include office, retail, and restaurants.
  • There is the potential of a hotel as part of the development, depending on the demand by the hotel industry.
  • Planning is still very preliminary and any construction is 18 months away.
  • Levey & Company would invest money in the current property to lure temporary tenants and demonstrate that the mall would be coming back to life.

A number of residents who live near Northway elementary offered comments both pro and con:

  • Con: fears of Wal-Mart moving in.
  • Con: worried about noise, bright lights, and excessive signage.
  • Pro: rare opportunity for development by a company with a proven track record
  • Pro: Chance of make Northway Mall a destination point in Ross Township

The next step will be a public hearing before the Ross Board of Commissioners on Feb. 4.

Cemetery Lane Townhouses

The planning commission also voted to recommend approval of the construction of more than 40 townhouses along Cemetery Lane.

The owner, When Raymond Caldwell, Jr., told the planning commission Ryan homes will be the builder, and the townhouses will cost in the neighborhood of $200,000. The planning commission recommendation is based on a satisfactory geotechnical analysis.

The Ross commissioners will consider the plan their next meeting on Jan. 7.

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McKnightmare December 21, 2012 at 03:11 PM
*eye roll* a fear of Walmart moving in? Please people. That would be the best choice. And with construction 18 months away, this improvement will be old news by then.
J Koehler December 21, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Kudos to the commissioners who refused to give tentative approval for the CC development. Over the past year there has been many things said and written about what they think should happen to the former golf course; the only people who say they would like 170 townhomes @ 200K and 130 single-family homes @ 500K are either Realtors or connected to the Developers. The hired hand design professional has one goal, maximize the return on investment for his developer. The result is a proposed development that burdens the community far more than will ever be realized in the form of an increased tax base. I hope that during the public hearing in January that this message gets through to the developer. They should be willing to give some in order to get.
L. L. Williams December 21, 2012 at 07:25 PM
170 townhouses!!! At $200,000 a pop!!! We already have those in this area and most are less money. What we don't have is patio homes, one floor living for those who have issues with steps. Let's face it! Our area is an aging one and folks who have lived here for a long time would like to continue to live here but have little opportunity, let alone finances to afford $200,000. How about serving the community that has sustained this town for decades! One floor living at a reasonable price!
Marlene Woods December 21, 2012 at 07:54 PM
L.L. Williams ---Hurray for you! I totally agree and I am sure I am just one of many that would vote for patio homes at an afforable price. When checking out similiar plans, as soon as one of these are started, the list of potenial buyers is is overwelming. Hope this plan fiys!
Lynn December 21, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Can someone please explain the assumed increased tax base that everyone is talking about?
David December 21, 2012 at 08:11 PM
If you think that patio homes are what is needed and will sell, then buy some land and start building! Why are you trying to tell someone else how to invest their money? I suspect that they are fully aware of what kinds of home this market is demanding and they are willing to put up lots of their money. You are welcome to do the same!
David December 21, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Lynn, this would be the difference between what that property is currently assessed at compared to what the total assessed value of all the homes will be once they are built and sold. I believe they are talking in the $90 million range. Multiply that By the tax rates of the township and school district and you get the added annual tax revenue expected.
Lynn December 21, 2012 at 08:58 PM
David, thanks. What I don't understand, can't comprehend, is why someone would spend $200,000 for a town home directly off of Highland. I live off of Highland, in West View, but let's get realistic... the houses that line Highland on the West View side, like all homes in West View, are not comparable in appearance or size. I sure wouldn't pay that much money to look out my back window and see a neighborhood whose homes are worth half to a third of my own.
David December 21, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Lynn, ... And yet the folks in Wallingford do just that. By the way, the town homes will be along Gass Road. The single family homes at $400k to $500k will be in the development off of Highland according to the plan.
Lynn December 21, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I'm not familiar with Wallingford, I've never paid attention to the plan names. I'm not against the plan - all it can do is boost the community. However, knowing that the single family homes will be adjacent to Highland peaks my interest even more... it will be interesting to see how things play out in a few years when the plan is finished. Did the developer touch upon the construction entrances to the site? I hope and assume those aren't along Highland... that road is pot hole riddled enough as is. Maybe they will put in a (better) sidewalk along Highland once it's finished... that would be a bonus.
Kevin December 21, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Just because the planning commision voted no doesnt meen the commisioners are gonna vote no . The planning commision is just a recommendation not the final say . Lynn I live on Highland and I dont think anybody is gonna pay for new sidewalks , that is the responsibility of the property owner .
B Concerned December 22, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I agree, Thanks to the commissioners who voted against the developement. I wasnt there so hopefully they are against the plan as a whole and not just the proposal as it stands. The area is nice along gas road and highland and at the top of casper. I thing traffic would make living in the immediate area a big down grade. Again, school population is an issue.
Kevin Y. December 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM
How does this proposed development "burden the community"? The population of West View/Ross has been in steady decline for 30 years, down by thousands. The school age population has been dropping even more precipitously with North Hills graduating classes 1/3 the size of just 30 years ago. Far from being stressed North Hills schools are slowly running out students! A development like this can help stem this long term decline which I hope everyone can agree is not a good thing. Bringing in new residents of younger age, with high incomes and hopefully with school age children is a positive development. I am amazed that people want low income housing or more senior citizen housing... Heartland Homes has done many of these developments. I don't think we need to worry about their ability to sell these homes...
J Koehler December 23, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Although,the commissioners can propose incentives to the developer that can make their development acceptable. These kind of deals are what make good leader's and enable them to get a win-win result.
J Koehler December 23, 2012 at 11:11 PM
When you add 300 buildings to an already aged utility system, and a waster water system that is approaching 100 years old, it is only a matter of time before there are failures. Loss in water pressure, for both residences and the fire department will be one byproduct. The commissioners should force the developers to go back to the drawing board, and get creative in order to maximize their profits.
AnonymousNorthHills December 25, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I say leave the restaurant as that area does not have a good unique eatery. Affordable family restaurant like American style. Add a park for familes! Also there is an underground stream on the Highland Country Club so it is going to have water diversion and flooding somewhere! Girty Run cannot handle that load. We may be in a population decline however we do not need a popluation explosion of kids as we sold off 2 schools! Ohio township had that issue and they have trailers when they allowed a development added! The last thing is look at the are they are putting these expense homes in as it DOES NOT FIT! I would rather spend that much for a home in Cranberry Twp as they have lower taxes and expensive homes are surronded by more expensive homes. The last point is the entrance planned is near Wellington which is right at the crest of the hill and that is a blind spot and more wrecks! STOP taking green space for water and use the homes for sale in Ross Twp and West View as their are a lot! Devlopers do not live in the area they destroy and do not suffer the ramifacations from the issues! It sickens me! Nice area could get destroyed by this greedy person!
Kevin Y. December 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM
What is the basis for your assertion that 300 new homes will cause a collapse of the water supply for the North Hills area? Is that what the West View Water Authority, which supplies water to the North Hills area, believes? Are we to believe that the current supply system is in such an incredibly fragile state? What is the acceptable number of homes in this development, 100? 200?
Kevin Y. December 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Great ideas! Why didn't you buy the property and keep the restaurant open and make the golf course a public park? Could it be that this was not an economically viable option? The only way this was going to happen was if Ross Township had spare millions of taxpayers money to spend on this project. Given that Ross can barely manage to keep it's 23 current parks in decent shape that was not going to happen, at least not without substantial tax increases... The best estimates are that this development will add 200-300 new students to the North Hills school system. The enrollment in the North Hills School district between the 2010-11 and 2011-2012 school years dropped by 249 students, reflecting the steady decline in population. There is no reason to believe that this development will lead to an unmanageable "explosion" in student population. Yes, YOU would not buy a home in this development. However, Heartland Homes has ample experience in these developments and feels that building these type of homes here is a good risk. And the risk is all theirs. Some people like buying new homes of which there are precious few in West View or Ross. Some people like Heartland Homes which is why their developments are usually successful. I sometimes wonder if people were this upset back in 1905 when they first started to chop up the hills north of Pittsburgh and cram all these houses into West View...
michael c newmeyer December 28, 2012 at 03:51 PM
My concern with this development is all the years of pesticides dumped into the earth now becoming air borne with all the earth moving. What health risks to the community and the children at High Cliff ? I think i'll call the EPA . Michael C
J Koehler December 31, 2012 at 12:53 PM
The proposal for the golf course by Heartland's design team is the work of someone with one goal, maximize the profits for their client. If the commissioners are wise and are able to get the developers on the same page with the goals of the community then I am confident that a successful "middle-ground" could be found. The design team needs to approach this with the mindset that Ross Twp is the real client. Two things that are most often mentioned by the neighbors are, the traffic increases, and the loss of a "historic" amenity. If this was a development that had the communities best interest in mind then the design team would be forced to get creative; and not simply put forth the amateurish design that is currently on the boards.
Becky Jarold January 05, 2013 at 03:28 PM
@Kevin Y. The large community that surrounds HCC property could each purchase 2 acres of land for the community park. This has happened and can happen. Who is going to start the walk and the petition?? I am in.

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