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By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Councilman disappointed in Villas decision

 


The Mission Street Bridge, South Side Park, and South Side Smooth Streets were among the topics at the Jan. 10 meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) held at the Brashear Center in the South Side Flats.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he did not know exactly why the Mission Street Bridge is scheduled to close Jan. 16-31.

For the last two years, city council passed funds for structural repairs, and to restore the surface of the bridge. Mr. Kraus said he feels the closing is for the latter purpose, and will find out.

He then gave an update he called “not good news” about the proposed controversial Villas at Winter Park single-family, 13-home residential development off Hackstown St. in the Slopes.

Residents have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the site geologically, and the impact on Hackstown, Gregory, and Magdalena streets during construction and afterwards. There is a two-phase, five-year construction schedule.

While the plan was denied twice by the Planning Commission, Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled in favor of the developer on Dec. 16, 2016.

Mr. Kraus said he is not sure if residents will pursue legal action. He was asked to ask the city’s Legal Department if there is precedent for the city to continue the process when a Planning Commission decision is reversed.

He said in the three years in which the development has been proposed, he has not encountered one resident who likes the plan.

An attendee said it will cost $12,000 to $15,000 for residents to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court.

Mr. Kraus said it is “something we face regularly”: developers with money and zoning lawyers can proceed with projects, while residents lack both the funds and legal expertise to oppose them.

Next, he said a Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) hearing on a proposed four unit, single-family development at Arlington Ave. and McArdle Roadway will be held at 8:50 a.m. on Jan. 19 at 200 Ross St ., Downtown.

A variance being sought for the Hillside zoning district is for disturbance. While the maximum area of disturbance permitted is 50 percent, 100 percent is being requested.

Mr. Kraus said while the development would obstruct residents’ views, the zoning code does not take that into consideration.

In his presentation, Lt. Edward Cunningham of Zone 3 said a speeding study of the Mission St. Bridge was conducted on Dec. 6-13 using a speed timing device. During that time, 9,436 vehicular trips were made across the bridge in both directions.

The posted speed limit on the bridge is 25 mph. He said the “vast majority” of motorists drove at or below the speed limit. He said it appears to residents cars are going fast, but that is due to the narrow street with vehicles parked on both side.

In the study, only 1,400 trips were more than five miles over the speed limit, while 230 trips were more than 10 miles over. Three cars crossed the bridge at 45 to 50 mph.

The fastest speeds occurred from midnight to 4 a.m ., and 6 to 8 p.m.

Regarding Hilltop statistics, Lt. Cunningham said there were 252 vehicle thefts in 2016, with the majority occurring when the owners left the cars running to warm up in cold weather.

In South Side Park updates, there are these upcoming events: Jan. 31 meeting of the Friends of South Side Park at 6 p.m. at the Hilltop Alliance, 831 E. Warrington Ave .; Feb. 28 charrette on the 21st St. watershed, at a time and place to be determined; April 1 South Side Spring Social at a time and place to be determined, with proceeds going toward park signage; and an April 2 clean-up at the Bandi Schaum Community Garden beginning at 10 a.m.

Josh Lippert, of City Planning, said South Side Park is the first park in the city to get all new, detailed signage. It is being funded by the SSSNA and the city. The SSSNA has been staging signage fundraisers for years.

The main signs at the entrances will feature maps, hours, and park rules. There will also be smaller, directional signage throughout the park.

Mr. Lippert said 30 to 40 sign panels will be installed, with many already completed. The Department of Public Works will be installing five signs with maps and park rules/regulations in the next few weeks.

In the spring, larger vehicular signs will be installed on utility polls.

Regarding the park’s master plan, he said a $40,000 grant was received from the state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The city matched the grant, for a total of $80,000 for the plan.

The funds will be used to develop a plan; once completed, new applications will follow for funds to bring the plan to fruition. The hope is for shovels in the ground in 2018, depending on how the process goes, Mr. Lippert said.

In other park news, three-quarters of a mile of new trail was added in 2016. This year, grants are being applied for through the Allegheny County Conservation District, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the latter to help restore native species.

In committee updates, the annual StepTrek, the self-guided walking tour of the Slopes, will be held in October. Planning meetings will begin in April.

Cara Jette, of the Outreach committee, told attendees to let her know if they would like to join. The committee’s responsibilities include spreading news about SSSNA activities through e-blasts, Facebook, Twitter, and other means to increase involvement in the organization and neighborhood.

The final speaker was Liz Heidenreich, founder of South Side Smart Streets that advocates for pedestrian and bicycle safety in the South Side.

On the last Sundays in May, June, and July, three miles of city streets will be closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for OpenStreetsPGH in which bicyclists and families can walk, run, bike, and skate in the designated areas.

Last year, more than 20,000 people participated.

She said planning is underway for the May 28 event.

 

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