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June 13th Zoning Hearing for site changes at gas station on corner of Penn & Braddock

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Photo from County Web Site

There is a zoning hearing for proposed changes for the gas station located at 7530 Penn Avenue, which is at the corner of Penn and South Braddock across from the Walgreens.

The hearing is scheduled for 9:50AM on Thursday June 13, 2013 in the downtown municipal building at 200 Ross Street, 1st Floor Conference Room, Pittsburgh.  (After entering the building from the Ross Street entrance, make a right and walk to the end of hallway to enter the Conference Room. ) The public is welcome to attend and provide comments for or against through the comment period in the meeting.

Details of the hearing’s agenda can be found on the zoning board web site on page 6 of the PDF found at the following link: http://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/schedule33/agenda-33-300.pdf 

The following is the site plan that is part of the application on file with the city: 7530 Penn Ave Zoning Proposal

The owners are looking for variances from the Zoning requirements in order to build a convenience store in the place of the building that currently holds the cashier.  they are also looking to change the curb cuts for the entrance/exits for the lot.

Residents are encouraged to review the information in the posting and participate in the process.

Notes from 11/30 & 12/01 Mtgs. re: ECS

Notes from Tuesday, November 31 Mtg @ ECS, Regent Square

Submitted by Jim Lenkner

The meeting at ECS focused on the traffic study and plans.  Essentially car pickup and drop-off will be from both sides of the building with reserved loading zones on Waverly and Brashear.  All buses will use the front entrance on S. Braddock Avenue, which will become a no-parking area.  Buses will not wait on S. Braddock Avenue but will be staged from the parking lot near the tennis courts on S. Braddock and called to pick up kids as they are ready to board.  Morning arrivals will drop-off students and depart immediately.  The study and plan was based on a maximum student capacity of 234 with 19 permanent staff.  There will be two kindergartens and one each of grades one thru three.

A parking study conducted on September 15 showed that on the streets surrounding the school, Waverly, East End and Brashear, a minimum of 35 open street parking spaces were counted between the hours of 8 and 4 – suggesting that if parents needed to park for short periods during drop-off times or for daytime meetings, there would be ample on-street parking available.

Evening events will be scheduled with attention given to the Shadyside Academy schedule.  ECS will supply their calendar to GPPNA for posting or linking.  A transportation coordinator will be designated to handle all logistics and issues that may arise.  Any evening event will be conducted with ECS staff outside to facilitate parking.

Traffic plan for Park Place School

Traffic plan for Park Place School

(Click on image, and then again to see it larger.)

You can also review the complete Revised Traffic and Parking Study, or see highlights below:

Transportation Management Plan (TMP) (excerpted from full traffic plan)

  1. School start time will occur at 9:00 A.M.
  2. Off-duty police officers will be provided from 8:15 A.M. to 9:15 A.M. and from 3:45 P.M. to 4:45 P.M. on all regular school days for the purpose of traffic control at the intersections of South Braddock Avenue with Waverly Street and with Brashear Street . Off-duty police officer shifts are served in four-hour increments so other duties that could be provided by these officers will be discussed with City representatives.
  3. During all arrivals and dismissals, students will be supervised by ECS staff and escorted to/from the school and/or School Loading Zones
  4. Students will use the front entrance on South Braddock Avenue for all arrivals and dismissals, supervised by ECS staff.
  5. Parents/guardians will be permitted to drop-off students only at the designated School Loading Zones on Waverly Street and Brashear Street , prior to the start of school.
  6. School buses, mini-buses, and vans will be permitted to drop off students only at the designated School Loading Zone on South Braddock Avenue , prior to the start of school.
  7. School dismissal time will occur at 4:00 P.M. for school buses, mini-buses, and vans.
  8. School dismissal time will occur at 4:15 P.M. for Parent/guardian pick-up.
  9. School buses, mini-buses, and vans will be permitted to pick-up students upon dismissal only at the designated School Loading Zone on South Braddock Avenue .
  10. All school buses, mini-buses, and vans will be staged on the western side of South Braddock Avenue , between Biddle Avenue and Guthrie Street , prior to student bus dismissal. The school vehicles will be radioed for pick up at the proposed ECS by ECS Staff.
  11. Parents/guardians will be permitted to pick up students at the designated School Loading Zones on both Waverly Street and Brashear Street .
  12. If School Loading Zones are fully occupied, parents/guardians will be permitted to park and wait in the available existing on-street parking spaces along Brashear Street, East End Avenue, and Waverly Street . Parents/guardians will be directed to the School Loading Zones, as space becomes available, by ECS Staff.
  13. Parents/guardians will be instructed not to park along South Braddock Avenue at any time.
  14. Parents/guardians will be reminded that no parking is permitted at any time in front of existing residential driveways.
  15. Student drop-off and pick-up will only be permitted in the designated School Loading Zones.
  16. At the start of each semester, a document will be distributed to all Parents/guardians of the students at ECS with directions detailing the student drop-off and pick-up procedure.A copy of this document will be posted and will be on file in the ECS office.
  17. Bus companies will be informed of the transportation management plan aspects that pertain to bus/minivan operations at least annually just prior to the start of the school year.
  18. The ECS will designate a Transportation Coordinator to be a point of contact for the neighborhood, parents, bus companies and the City of Pittsburgh for all transportation related questions and comments.
  19. ECS will coordinate with SSA regarding scheduling of major evening/special events at the school.
  20. After the first 2-3 months of operation of the ECS school facility, ECS will provide a report to the City documenting the effectiveness of the TMP and identifying proposed modifications to the measures specified in the TMP. The evolution of continued use of off-duty police officers will be included in this report. In addition, possible substitution of school crossing guards for the off-duty police officers may be considered at that time.

Notes from Wednesday, December 1 Neighborhood Mtg w/Councilman Burgess on ECS

Submitted by Joni Rabinowitz

On Wednesday Dec. 10, 2010 Councilman Ricky Burgess held a community meeting at St. Bede’s on Dallas to hear the opinions of the community members about the plans for ECS (Environmental Charter School). Since he will eventually be voting on ECS’s request for conditional use of the Park Place School building, Ricky is beginning the process now, to hear from his constituents.

About 75 people were there, and those who spoke in favor slightly out-numbered those who spoke against the plan.  Those in favor (which included about 5 parents or grandparents of ECS students, some of whom don’t live in the council district) made the following points:

  • Although ECS is not a neighborhood school, it is a great benefit to the community; good schools increase property value, also
  • ECS provides a way for people to meet and interact with their neighbors (18 ECS students live in Park Place)
  • ECS wishes to partner with the community to improve the natural environment- they teach about nature- we should work with them
  • Altho there will be additional traffic, parking problems, and noise, these are part of city living and shouldn’t prevent us from having a good school. ECS has made some changes in their plans to meet objections by residents. There will be police to direct traffic before and after school.

Those speaking against the plan, who primarily live within close proximity to Park Place School or directly across Braddock, made these points:

  • Traffic there is already a nightmare.  With Braddock being the official route from the parkway to Childrens Hospital, and the approved route for 2 years while the Squirrel Hill tunnel is being repaired, this can only get worse.
  • Traffic already drives on Waverly and Brashear — esp. during peack hours –to avoid Penn
  • Parking spaces will be at a premium during after- school programs (every day) and evening programs.
  • There are already 2 accidents a week on Braddock
  • It’s wrong for for-profit companies (lilke Imagine!) to be spending our tax monies which should be going to our public schools

Ricky thanked the residents for coming out and making their opinions known. He said although he supports charter schools, he is committed to both sides in this debate. He wants to help us find a middle ground, if there is one. He’s committed to an open, transparent process and is deeply concerned about how we feel. He plans to spend more time in the community learning about how people feel about this, and asked people to invite him to their homes to talk about it. The process now is that Zoning Commission hold a hearing and vote next Tuesday at 2pm. They will consider the immediate neighbors, the broader community and the law, when making their decision. If they recommend conditional use of the building, it then goes to Council. Before Council’s vote, council will hold a public hearing.

Public Hearing Scheduled December 7 for Environmental Charter School

The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park (ECS) in Regent Square is continuing its effort to expand by purchasing 309 Braddock Avenue, the historic former Park Place School building that currently functions as apartments. A public hearing is scheduled before the Planning Commission for Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 2:00pm on the first floor of the John P. Robin Civic Building, 200 Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh. (see attached letter and comment form: Hearing Notice Letter)

ECS has held two community meetings in Park Place, the first in June 2010 and the most recent was four months ago in July 2010 (see our archives: Meeting Notes from 6/3/2010 Charter School Community Meeting and Meeting Notes from 7/14/2010 Charter School Meeting ). The residents that attended asked questions, raised concerns (especially about parking and traffic) and made comments both in favor and in opposition to the proposal.

At this time, ECS has submitted their most recent proposal to Planning Commission requesting a conditional use that will permit using the building as a school.

Via a phone conversation with GPPNA’s new president elect, Jim Lenkner, Jon McCann said they had met several times with city planning and with individual neighbors of the school through the summer and had investigated options for traffic, etc.

He also stated that they met several more times with Shadyside Academy and conducted a new traffic study during September.

  • McCann said they ruled out changing the directions of either side streets, and they ruled out installing a traffic light.
  • They will schedule the start of the school day to be offset from Shadyside Academy so that both schools will not have the same arrival departure times.
  • Two crossing guards will be employed one at Brashear and one at Waverly
  • He also noted that 80% of ECS students are expected to arrive by school bus, which is more than Shadyside academy. Also suggesting, that auto volumes would be less than that of Shadyside Academy.
  • ECS plans for 240 students.

Jon McCann assured Jim Lenkner that ECS is committed to working with the community and that they did their best to address the concerns that have been raised from community members throughout the process.

Going forward, two meetings will be held at the City Planning Commission, at 200 Ross Street downtown, first floor, to request a conditional use. The first meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 1 pm. There is no public testimony here, but ECS will brief Planning Commission about their proposed plan. On Tuesday, December 7 the Commission has scheduled a vote at a 2 pm meeting. This meeting is also a public hearing where community members may speak for up to 3 minutes. If there is substantial objection, Planning often sends the applicant back to make relevant changes. Often the Commission convenes several meetings to try to bring all the sides together. ECS is not the only item on the agenda for either of these meetings, and sometimes they last a long time. In order to express your opinions, it’s important to show up in at both of them, but especially the 2nd one. There is no advance signup. Just get there early and get in line.

After the Commission votes, City Council must vote. This is another opportunity for community members to speak up. There will probably be a public hearing prior to the City Council meeting.

Zoning Board Rejects Request to House Federal Prisoners in Park Place

I attended the Wilkinsburg borough zoning board meeting tonight where they announced their unanimous decision to reject the requests from Abraxas Cornell to change the use of the building located at 306 Penn Avenue.

Currently the facility has a variance and non-conforming use granted, allowing them to house female juvenal offenders, while providing them programs for schooling, life skills, and substance abuse programs. The facility has operated, largely unknown and unnoticed by local residents, for the last 10 years.

The company had recently requested permission to change the non-conforming use in such a way as to allow the housing of adult, co-ed felons in the last months of their sentences. Additionally, they requested an accompanying variance to increase the permitted number of housed offenders.

The borough solicitor had argued against the granting of the requests, and submitted legal briefs to support the rejection. Many in the local community had attended previous hearings and also urged the board to reject the request.

Follow-up To Zoning Request to House Federal Prisoners

[singlepic id=169 w=320 h=240  float=right]I attended the Wilkinsburg Zoning hearing yesterday and have some additional information to share. The hearing was very well attended, and the crowd spilled out into the hall, as not everyone could fit into the hearing room.

First off the request is to change the offender population from juvenile females, to co-ed adults. It is not to mix the juveniles with adults. So the total proposed population is for 108 offenders.  The program is to take convicted offenders during the last 3 to 6 months of their sentence, and house them in the facility while providing life skill, job skill, and other counseling- with the goal of improving their reintegration with society.

Some specific questions/answers from the hearing, as answered by the facility’s representatives (Disclaimer: this is based on my notes and best recollection. There were almost 4 hours of questions/comments/testimony!):

  1. Do the offenders leave the facility or otherwise interact with the community?
    Answer: The offenders will be able to leave the facility (unsupervised) for specific durations and activities such as job interviews, jobs, week-end passes to visit family, etc. They must return by predetermined times or an arrest warrant will be issued for them.
  2. What are the nature of the crimes committed by the offenders?
    Answer: The (planned, not current) offenders  may be convicted of any felony (or lessor crime if they are coming from non-federal systems).  While the majority are expected to be non-violent offenders, a small percentage may have been convicted of violent crimes, and/or be sex offenders.
  3. What security precautions are taken?
    Answer: The offenders are monitored within the facility by camera. There are some small number of security guards, in addition to employees. Schedules are set for the offenders and compliance is monitored, specifically for leave from the facility.
  4. Doe the company operate other facilities? In residential communities?
    Answer: Yes. Two examples of residential communities provided are in Brownsville Texas, and Oakland California.
  5. Are there any statistics available for crimes committed by resident offenders while in similar facilities operated by the corporation?
    Answer: No, not at the time of the hearing.
  6. What is the basis of the plaintiff’s argument for the zoning variance (to allow 108 instead of the already permitted 19 resident offenders)?
    Answer: First, the institution would struggle to continue to function as a juvenile facility, and the already granted request to switch to adults, requires re-requesting of a variance to have more that the permitted 19 residents. More than 19 are needed to be viable as a business location.
    Second, other uses are very limited or impractical with the current building.
  7. Was the impact or relation to the current neighborhood comprehensive plan considered or presented?
    Answer: No.
  8. How long has the facility be operating in the community?
    Answer: Since 2000, they have housed female juvenile offenders. Currently they have about 72 residents.

The hearing lasted from 7:00Pm to after 11:00PM, with unlimited time for public questions and comments permitted. The Borough of Wilkinsburg’s representative before the board requested that the board deny the request for the variance.  The Board asked them and the plaintiffs to provide legal briefs prior to the next meeting, when they will announce their decision.

The next meeting is at
7:00pm, Thursday November 19
3rd Floor, 605 Ross Ave Wilkinsburg, PA 15221

The decision will be announced at that time.