By Paul Chasko
At their regular meeting on August 9, the Union Township (UT) Board of Supervisors rejected a development plan to provide housing for workers engaged in area gas well drilling work.
In 2005 BDH (Behling Dixon Holdings) acquired approximately 125 acres along Cardox Road with about 80% of that property in Union Township and the remainder in South Park Twp. – Allegheny County. Most of the property was a “brownfield” – a slag dump desperately in need of reclamation. Reclamation has been moving forward slowly due to a lack of capital (private and reclamation grant funds).
The proposed development plan presented by BDH in 2005 entailed a Mixed Use Development (MUD) under an overlay featuring separate areas for Single Family Residential use, Heavy/Light Industrial development, Multi Family Residential development, Commercial Business development and open spaces. At that time a factory for manufacturing gun barrels was mentioned for the Heavy/Light Industrial area.
Recently, BDH presented a development plan to the UT Planning Commission to place 20, three bedroom mobile homes on permanent foundations in the area previously identified for Heavy/Light Industrial use. The intended use was to house approximately 60 workers who will be working in the area on gas well drilling sites over a time period of 3 to 5 years. A separate mobile home on the site was to be fitted out as a catering service providing food for the workers. The UT Planning Commission forwarded the plan on to the UT Board with their recommendation to proceed. The board ruled against the plan believing the intended use and location on the site did not conform to zoning regulations. It was also noted that the mobile homes, used as intended, did not quite fit the definition of a motel or hotel.
There were again complaints from the UT Board (Supervisor Spahr) that the UT Planning Commission was not using the UT Solicitor and Engineer to thoroughly investigate plans brought before the commission before passing them on to the Board. Mr. Ivery (the code enforcement officer) took issue with the comments. There seems to be some confusion between the Board, BDH, the Planning Commission and the two Zoning Officers as to the flexibility of the zoning areas in the overlay presented by BDH in 2005 for the MUD. The five zones may have been overlayed on the site only as a “possible” plan for use. The MUD Ordinance is silent on the need for formally establishing “meets and Bounds” for the zones of use within a MUD.
The Zoning officers and Secretary/Treasurer were asked to examine the BDH file for records that might shed more light on the issue. The “meets and bounds” for the five zones may never have been defined except for lines drawn on a poster board map presented to the Board at the 2005 meeting. It’s questionable that a map having zoning area borders defined by survey was ever prepared and presented.
Some of the Supervisors appeared to be supportive of this project realizing it would help generate capital for BDH that’s trying to clean up and make use of an eyesore in Union Township. Some opponents to the idea called it a transient worker camp.