South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

First Planning Forum meeting without the SSLDC in decades


A brief meeting of the South Side Planning Forum on July 24 nevertheless addressed a variety of topics ranging from the neighborhood plan revision to clarification of the forum's voting structure to Christmas in July.

It began with Peter Kreuthmeier's report of the new Development Review Committee (DRC). It was formed as a merger of the LTV Steering Committee and the former South Side Local Development Company's Design Review Committee.

In the South Side Works update, he reported J&L Grille is open for business. Hotel construction is well underway, and discussions with leasing prospects for vacant spaces are ongoing.

Also discussed by the DRC is a property at 1500 Bingham St. within the historic district. The project is a rehab/expansion of the existing building into a three-level structure containing one owner-occupied unit and two rentals, with internal parking for seven cars.

There was also discussion about the proposed One Step project which provides incentive for business owners to create a barrier-free entry to their businesses as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Next, forum chair Hugh Brannan commented it was the first time in more than 25 years that there were no representatives present from the South Side LDC. The organization's office closed as of June 29.

In the neighborhood plan revision update, Mr. Brannan said the Chamber of Commerce had endorsed it, meaning all the forum organizations were on board. The goal is for presentation of the update to take place at the forum's September or October meeting.

"It's going to be a little challenging," he said of the upcoming changes in organizations' responsibilities in light of the closing of the South Side LDC.

Regarding the Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) update, Mr. Hugh Brannan said the document adopted by the forum advocating formation of a NID in the South Side Flats was formally transmitted to city officials. The forum has not received an acknowledgement of receipt.

As city Councilman Bruce Kraus stated he would not support the NID, it is unlikely to move to city council, where the legal process for NID formation would have taken place.

Mr. Brannan announced two public hearings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The first one took place on July 19 regarding 2139 Wharton St. It requests relief from the zoning code's height and floor area ratio requirements for a new multi-unit residential structure with integral garages.

The other, to be held on Aug. 2, requests relief from the zoning code's minimum rear setback requirement for a new service station with 45 parking stalls at 700 E. Carson St.

Mr. Kreuthmeier will report on both at next month's forum meeting.

Rev. Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, who represents the religious sector on the forum, asked for clarification on her voting status.

Christine Gaus said the religious, health, and education sectors do not have votes. Those with votes are the: Brashear Association, Carnegie Library, South Side Chamber of Commerce, South Side Community Council, and the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association.

Consensus among the voting groups must be reached for action to be taken.

Ms. Gaus said the operating structure was outlined in the prior revision of the neighborhood plan. She said the idea behind the structure was to have sectors' voices articulated, but not be running the show.

In the Brashear Association's "Christmas in July" update, about 150 toys were collected, and $4,000 raised, at the July 18 event. The annual toy drive begins in the summer so as not to run short of toys in December for Christmas. Last year, more than 2,000 toys were distributed to over 500 families.

Chuck Half, of the Mayor's Office, who was in attendance, said the new Veterans Taxi Service will soon be operational. Most will be wheelchair-accessible, natural gas-powered vehicles.

As for the new parking meter system, it will begin in the next two weeks, with East Carson St. the first site. To park at meters, customers will enter their vehicle license plate number, without dashes or dots, at a solar-charged, multi-space meter. They then enter their planned time length.

Payment is by coins, credit cards, or debit cards. Dollar bills will not be accepted.

The next forum meeting will be on Sept. 11.


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