Battle over potential sidewalk ordinance heats up in Ross
A proposal to require sidewalks outside new or renovated Ross businesses is generating dissension in the township, as one local group lobbies for more pathways for walking and biking and a business association questions the move.
Ross commissioners could adopt an ordinance later this fall to formalize sidewalk requirements.
The ordinance could require developers to add sidewalks to plans for new businesses across the township, and force businesses that renovate structures to add them. Officials, meanwhile, recently asked for sidewalks to be added to two projects.
“We've missed a lot of good opportunities in the past to add in pedestrian connections, and I don't want us to miss any more opportunities to make it a pedestrian-friendly area,” Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer said.
David Martin, who leads the Ross Township Business and Economic Development Corporation, disagrees.
“The business community is totally against the sidewalks,” said Martin, whose organization represents 60 businesses. “How am I supposed to ask businesses to come in with that?”
Businesses would incur higher costs if they have to build sidewalks, Martin said, and the result could be fewer businesses coming to the township. He said putting sidewalks on busy roads doesn't make sense because it will be dangerous to have pedestrians walking along them as cars zip by.
Commissioners recently requested that two businesses add sidewalks.
Auto dealer Regis Mannke agreed to install 340 feet of sidewalk for his planned used-car lot at Nelson Run Road and McKnight Road. Mannke also owns North Hills Auto Mall on Camp Horne Road.
Gary O'Nesti of LRC McKnight Investors LLC agreed to pay $12,880 to the township in lieu of building 161 feet of sidewalk at a cost of $80 per foot. The company plans to repurpose a closed car dealership on McKnight Road and add a retail building at the site, located south of the Ross Towne Center retail complex.
The money from LRC McKnight Investors will go into a fund for the township to build sidewalks where they're most needed, said Dominic Rickert, the township planning and zoning administrator.
There is great potential for a safer pedestrian and bike-friendly town, Shaffer said.
He established the Ross Township Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee — also known as Walk Bike Ross — in the spring. It has about 30 members and is lobbying municipalities in the North Hills, including Shaler, Millvale and McCandless, to look into how the towns could link to each other and to Pittsburgh.
“Our goal is to really connect the residential areas with the business areas, parks, schools and other amenities in the township through safe pedestrian or bicycle connections,” Shaffer said.
The group is cataloguing where there is a need for sidewalks throughout Ross, and intends to make a priority list for where the pathways should first be installed.
Currently, six businesses on or just off busy McKnight Road have sidewalks, the group said, and there are 42 bus stops and 26 crosswalks. Between 30,000 and 40,000 vehicles a day travel state-owned McKnight.
Ross resident Nancy Latimer is chairwoman of the group. She said she got involved because she wanted to live in a community where she could easily bike or walk to get coffee, or commute by bike. She said she hopes the group's plan will make it easier for the township to decide where to spend money from the sidewalk fund.
“We have to start somewhere,” she said.
Katelyn Ferral is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-380-5627 or [email protected].