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2007-08-17
Jefferson Hills, PA. City Council Rejects Rezoning For Wal-Mart

A project called "Jefferson Landing" will not be landing. In late June, the Planning Commission in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania determined that an application for commercial rezoning that would pave the way for a Wal-Mart, needed more information. At its July 23rd meeting, the Commission voted 5-2 against rezoning the land. The City Council took up the matter on August 8th. Wal-Mart wanted 59 acres of land located in a business park zone changed to highway commercial. But the City Council voted 6-1 to deny the rezoning. According to the Pittsburg Post Gazette, the slam-dunking of Wal-Mart was met with cheers and applause by the roughly 150 people who turned out against the project. The developer, McHolme Builders, will not challenge the decision, its attorney said after the vote. The developer revealed that he is already in negotiations with a landowner in neighboring Clairton, Pennsylvania. The Jefferson Hills site and the Clairton location both present challenges to the developer, said the engineering firm working on the project. Now that he has been rejected in Jefferson Hills, the developer is saying he might not have built at the site -- even if rezoning had been approved. The project would have included a 150,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, plus another 32,000 square-foot strip mall and three stand-alone businesses: a sit-down restaurant, a fast food restaurant, and a bank. But rather than seek land that was appropriately zoned, the developer assumed he could convince town officials to rezone the land.

What you can do: The developer told Jefferson Hills officials that his project would result in $112,600 in property tax revenues for the town, and nearly $400,000 in taxes for the local school district. These figures are before costs to the town, and before deducting the current taxes paid by the parcel. Hundreds of residents came to the public hearings to object to the project, arguing that a Wal-Mart would increase traffic and crime, jeopardize children's safety, create more litter, lighting, noise, pollution, and a decline in their quality of life and property values. One Jefferson Hills Councilman told residents at the August 8th hearing,"public sentiment is extremely important in these matters." He pointed out that no resident ever spoke in favor of the development at a public meeting. Another Councilman told the Post Gazette he was against the zoning change because it was put in place to protect the public. "When you start making zoning changes, you open the municipality to lawsuits," he said. This case is a good reminder to local citizens that if a case involves rezoning, it can be legally denied if local officials just say no. There is no such thing as rezoning "as of right."










 
 
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