Ross tables vote on proposed Perry Highway project amid concerns about impact on neighborhood |
North Hills

Ross tables vote on proposed Perry Highway project amid concerns about impact on neighborhood

Tony LaRussa
Ross commissioners are considering a developer's plan to tear down a vacant commercial building along Perry Highway and replace it with an apartment complex and retail shops.
Ross commissioners on Feb. 11, 2019 put off a vote on whether to approve a proposed redevelopment along Perry Highway after residents raised concerns about its size and impact on the neighborhood. The developer wants to tear down the existing building and replace it with a mixed-use project that includes an apartment building, self-storage units, a restaurant, a pharmacy, a fitness center and retail space.

Ross commissioners have decided to take more time to review a developer’s plan to tear the former liqour store building along Perry Highway and replace it with an apartment and retail complex amid concerns that the project may have a negative impact on surrounding properties.

Curtis Kossman is proposing to redevelop the 11-acre site in the 7900 block of Perry Highway into a 4-story building with 74 0ne-bedroom apartments and 50 two-bedroom units with rents starting at around $1,000 month.

Kossman’s plans also call for placing a 89,000-square-foot climate controlled self-storage facility, 27,000-square-feet of retail space, a 20,000-square-foot fitness center, a drive-thru restaurant and a Rite Aid pharmacy on the site.

Several elements on the site will be connected by a covered pedestrian bridge that gives apartment residents access a clubhouse and a sports court as well as the retail shops.

Kossman, whose family has owned the property since 1949, said he wants to redevelop it because “the building that exists there today has reached its useful life. It’s too close to the road and its orientation and footprint do not meet the modern standards for retail.”

The board on Monday considered two measures Kossman needs to move the project forward — one granting preliminary approval for the restaurant and fitness center; and the other for prelimary approval of the overal site plan.

The township’s planning commission previously voted to recommend that the commissioners approve both measures, which comply with all of Ross’ existing ordinances, according to planning director Nick Rickert.

The board voted 8-1 to allow the restaurant and fitness center, with Commissioner Joe Laslavic casting the disenting vote.

But the board agreed unanimously that they want more time to go over the site plans before making a decision.

The township has up to 90 days in which to review and vote on the proposal.

By law, municipalities must approve projects that meet the legal requirements for development. If a project is denied, officials must cite a specific reason for their decision, which could be subject to court review.

Obtaining a preliminary approval for both measures is not a green light for construction.

Before work can begin, the developers will have to demonstrate that the project meets the township’s requirements for managing stormwater, parking, landscaping and the inclusion of features such as lighting and noise filters to reduce the negative impact on surrounding properties.

Public hearings on the project also must be conducted.

Laslavic echoed concerns raised by several residents about the additional traffic the project could generate in the neighborhood.

“I’m concerned about the traffic situation,” he said. “It’s already a very busy section of Perry Highway.”

Kossman acknowledged that his proposal creates “a complex site” but noted that a private traffic study will be performed and the development will have to conform to any requirements set by the state Department of Transportation.

Several McCandless residents whose properties border the northern portion of the project were allowed to speak at Monday’s meeting after the board approved Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer’s motion to suspend the rule prohibiting people other than Ross residents and taxpayers from commenting at public meetings.

Several commissioners also noted that they received a number of emailed comments from McCandless residents that would be considered in their deliberations.

One of the biggest concerns raised by residents — especially those from McCandless — is that the building will be too close to their properties.

While the nearly 300 feet of woodland behind the property will remain untouched, the buffer zone along the northern edge where it meets McCandless will only have about 25 feet of green space.

Commissioner Jason Pirring also questioned the size of the development after several residents raised the issue.

“This is a massive project,” he said. “It’s a lot for these residents to deal with. Why should they be OK with how big this project truly is?”

Kossman said he is aware of the the concerns about the scope of the project, but said it is “not uncommon to see the kind of density we are talking about on 11 acres” of commercially zoned property.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.