A group of Bethel Park residents plan to challenge a zoning change that may bring a gas station to Cool Springs Drive.
Several people who live near the proposed development near Cool Springs Sports Complex spoke at the Aug. 12 council meeting. They plan to circulate a petition in an effort to have the matter placed as a ballot question, possibly as early as the Nov. 5 general election.
The group wants to nullify council’s July 22 decision to rezone a portion of Cool Springs Drive to commercial. American Natural, which operates a local chain of gas stations, wants to build a gas station and convenience store on the newly rezoned parcel.
Tom Busse of Cool Springs Drive said council passed the zoning change despite overwhelming opposition from residents of that neighborhood. He claimed the gas station would pose potential health risks, create traffic problems and cause property values to plummet.
He suggested some council members might be representing business interests over the interests of residents.
Jean Enright of Cool Springs Drive urged Bethel Park citizens to sign the petition even if the issue doesn’t directly affect them.
“Because if it happened on Cool Springs Drive,” she said, “it can happen in your neighborhood too.”
Bethel Park’s home rule charter allows citizens to challenge ordinances and try to overturn them. To do so, a group of citizens must file an affidavit with the municipality announcing their intention. From there, the group has 60 days to circulate a petition. If enough people sign it, then the matter will be placed in the form of a referendum on the next election ballot.
To trigger a referendum, at least 20 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election will have to sign the petition. That number is 3,333 according to Municipal Manager Laurence Christian.
Councilman Paul Dixon said he voted to rezone that area because it already has plenty of commercial developments, including one of the largest sports complexes in the Pittsburgh area, a shopping center, restaurant and a Lowe’s Home Improvement store.
The property developer wanted to build a gas station on Hamilton Road a year or so ago, but those plans stalled at the planning commission because municipal officials thought it wasn’t an appropriate location for a gas station, Dixon said.
The Cool Springs Drive site is a much better location because that area is already commercially developed, he said.
“Everything over there is commercial,” he said.
Dixon voted for the rezoning change along with four of his colleagues, Joe Consolmagno, Jim McLean, Jim Hannan and Mark O’Brien. Council members Donald Harrison, Lorrie Gibbons and Dr. Timothy Campbell dissented and Council President Tim Moury abstained.
Tim Enright of Cool Springs Drive urged residents who are interested in helping to circulate the petition to call 412-714-6588.
In another matter, council approved plans for a new residential neighborhood, known as Bethel Pines, on Demare Drive. Nineteen single family homes will be built on about 6.5 acres of vacant land.
Moury said municipal planners have been working with the developer on stormwater management plans that will not only prevent flooding in the proposed neighborhood, but also in other areas such as Bethel Church Road.
The developer will extend storm sewers to these areas and route the water to a retention pond that will be built in the Bethel Pines neighborhood. The municipality will take over maintenance of the stormwater infrastructure when it is complete.
Council also recognized Bethel Park Community Foundation, which presented two ceremonial checks. The community foundation raised $10,000 for Bethel Park Historical Society’s renovations to the second floor auditorium of the Schoolhouse Arts and History Center. It also raised $15,000 to develop a quiet outdoor area at the community center.