A proposal for a 104-lot residential development off Battle Ridge Road is under consideration by the South Fayette Township Planning Commission.
Following a lengthy discussion at their Jan. 31 meeting, planning commission members tabled a decision on granting approvals to pave the way toward Lafayette Meadow, to be built on 112 acres next to the Sterling Ridge plan and across the street from Walnut Ridge.
Keystone 76 Development LLC is working with two builders: Heartland Homes, to offer residences in the $500,000 range, and Ryan Homes, priced around $400,000. Developer Dick Herrington has a long history of residential projects in South Fayette, including Walnut Ridge, which has its entrance across the street from the latest site.
Lafayette Meadow, located within the township’s Rural Residential zoning district, is proposing an incorporating an open-space design, the approval process for which constitutes “basically a negotiation,” according to consulting engineer Donald Housley.
“They are taking what the zoning permits in an R-1 district and they lay out a subdivision, and they prove that subdivision is feasible to us. It doesn’t have to be a complete design, but feasible,” he explained. “They’re allowed to reduce lot size, lot width, side-yard setbacks, front yard, all of these things they can adjust, and request you to approve those modifications as part of that open-space concept.”
Patrick Cooper of Gateway Engineers, representing the developer, presented two potential designs to the planning commission. One shows a configuration using R-1 paramaters, such as minimums of 20,000 square feet per lot and 110 feet for frontage, and totaling 122 lots.
“This looks like just about every residential plan that you see coming before you in the last 10 years,” he said.
Along with reducing the number of lots by 18, the developer’s preferred design features open space accounting for about 40 percent of the property, according to Cooper, resulting in “much less infrastructure, much more preservation of land.”
“This open-space option is what everybody wants,” he asserted, predicting what will be said in 50 years about some municipalities’ more restrictive zoning ordinances: “What were they thinking, in the 21st century, building this 1960s suburbia with all this infrastructure that has to be maintained?”
Tom Iagnemma, planning commission chairman, offered a caveat.
“One of the big drawbacks of the open space is population density,” he said. “Typically, in an open space, the developer comes in and says, ‘I could do a hundred units R-1. I can do open space, have less roads, less infrastructure, costs less, but I can put 120 units in.’ You’re not doing that, though. But that can happen on open space.”
He also addressed a letter from South Fayette Township School District regarding the impact on enrollment for “any development this size.” The number of students grew by 65 percent between 2005 and 2018, according to information provided at a March school board meeting.
“They have concerns that they want the township to think about as the township moves forward in evaluating and approving all this,” Iagnemma said.
While solicitor Robert Garvin agreed that the district’s observations have no bearing on any decisions regarding Lafayette Meadow, Housley said the aim is toward changes at the township level.
“They’re requesting that we consider actually redoing the ordinance and not allowing this type of thing, creating one-acre lots or increasing lot size,” he explained.
Herrington contended that the issue “needs to be looked at in a longer-term spectrum,” referencing his native Mt. Lebanon, where school enrollment spiked in the wake of increased residential development but eventually declined. A similar situation has occurred in Peters Township.
“I think just overall township terrain limits the maximums, anyway,” Herrington said, maintaining that demographics tend to do so. “Go back to our Hickory Heights plan we built, ’89 to ’99, and look at how many children are in those houses and how many of our original owners are still there. They haven’t had kids for 20 years in the school.”
Discussions about Lafayette Meadow are to continue at the next planning commission meeting, scheduled for Feb. 28. Plans ultimately are subject to final approval by township commissioners.