Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Possible New development at the old Kuhn's location - UPDATE

UPDATE: I talked with Dan Hankins, Ross Township Building Inspector, and he had the following to say about the development plans:

This site plan was tabled by the planning commission at their meeting on January 24th. There are many outstanding issues regarding the proposed Dollar Bank and partial demolition of Kuhn’s.

Also, the façade is going to be replaced on both the old Kuhn’s Building and the middle building in which Health South is a tenant in.

Apparently a new bank may be built at Kuhn's old location along McKnight Road across from the U-Haul and Red Lobster.

From the Ross Township Planning Commission agenda:

McKnight Property Management requesting Site Plan approval for the purpose of
constructing a new 1-story bank and façade restoration on property located at 4721
McKnight Road in a C-1 Zoning District of the 8th Ward.


The commission considered this last week and this Tattler is working to find out what's going on. That said, it's about time something is going in that location. However, all we need is another bank.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mover & Shaker of the month...

I was interested in doing interviews with a mover & shaker once a month from the North Hills community. This could be a local politician, school board member or someone who constitutes a leader in your community.

These interviews would give good insight into these people and what they have to say about issues in your local neighborhood.

Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, will be the first one. Who else should this Tattler interview in the future?

Feel free to post a comment or E-mail me at sirfuller@hotmail.com.

Working to keep you posted...

Legislative run...

This Tattler has been in talks with Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, and he plans to seek the endorsement of the Democratic committee of the 21st legislative district.

Dan DeMarco wrote:

I have declared that I am a candidate seeking the Democratic Committee Endorsement from the committee members of the 21st legislative district on February 10th.

He also has agreed to an interview and this Tattler wonders if any of you have questions you'd like me to ask. E-mail any queries to me at sirfuller@hotmail.com by Sunday February 3.

Working to keep you posted...

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm back!!!

Oh, my fellow Tattlers, I'm sorry about my absence but I have been a bit under the weather lately. Here are a few things that I've heard lately...

- Ross Park Mall is planning on getting both a P.F. Chang's as well as a Crate and Barrel.

- Old Navy is closing at Northway Mall. However, they have opened a location at Ross Park Mall and will stay there. While I've never been a huge fan of that store, this seems like it was only a matter of time.

- Back in the day, I heard that Barnes & Noble would be building at Ross Park Mall -- is this still happening?

- I went to the Brown Jug Restaurant in Millvale (across the street from Bauerstown Fire Company where I occasionally play BINGO on Fridays) last week. Don't bother, the service was terrible and the food was very mediocre.

- This Tattler was searching for a restaurant to eat at 7 P.M. on a Saturday. I ventured to Wexford and Atria's was full as well as that new Mexican restaurant which had a 45 minute wait. I went to China Palace and guess what? No wait and the food was excellent!

- The editor (Dave Titmus) of the McKnight Journal has left to do public relations for a local law firm. Another one bites the dust (this Tattler left that publication in August).

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wal-Mart plans at stand still...

Rumors have been running rampant lately that Wal-Mart is scrapping plans for a location along McKnight Road because of traffic issues. In a recent edition of the McKnight Journal, a Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed that their lease agreement with McCrackin Ford has been nixed, at least temporarily.

From the McKnight Journal:

Nearly a year after closing its doors, McCrackin Ford is looking for a new tenant -- and is out of its agreement with Wal-Mart.

The car dealership along McKnight Road closed in February 2007. At that time, Wal-Mart agreed to a contract with the owners that allowed them an option to purchase the property, which is adjacent to Chi-Chi's restaurant and the former Sam's Club site, both of which the mega-chain already owned, said Wal-Mart spokes-man Jim Davis.

However, that agreement was severed last month after its initial expiration, Davis said.

"We did drop the contract on the McCrackin Ford property, but it doesn't necessarily mean we won't go back to them with another offer," Davis said. "We're just evaluating our opportunities right now."


Davis added that the retailer was in the process of completing a traffic study along McKnight Road

I have been in talks with Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, who said a meeting was held with Wal-Mart representatives but talks have since broken off. That leader contends they will only meet with the chain's representatives at a public meeting in the future.

The issue of traffic concerns remain a huge problem.

That DeMarco said:

They did meet with less than a quorum of Ross commissioners perhaps two months ago, but I have refused to meet with Wal-Mart unless it is in a meeting that is open to the public.

Indeed, one of their biggest challenges is traffic on McKnight Road. Any changes to traffic patterns, new traffic lights or a widening of McKnight Road to accommodate access to the site is for PennDOT to determine. I feel confident that PennDOT would want us involved in any such consideration.

As I said before, I will not meet with Wal-Mart officials unless it is in a meeting open to the public. If they are still interested in building on the site, it is too important of an issue for the public not to be heard.

If I get an update, I'll let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Setting the record straight...

Dan DeMarco, Ross Township commissioner, wants to set the record straight in terms of HEARTH's affordable housing development and the reversal of the board's decision. Some comments posted on this blog have been attacking the board for its reversal.

In an email sent earlier today, he deals with that issue and confirms his interest in a state legislature run.

DeMarco wrote:

The record needs to be set straight regarding the affordable housing plan by Trek Development and HEARTH. I am disappointed by those individuals who want to cast stones at me for my vote to approve the subdivision plan and then subsequently the settlement offer regarding the federal lawsuit filed by Trek, et. al. against Ross Township and four (4) individual Ross commissioners.

First, as an elected official, I have sworn an oath to obey the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the ordinances of the Township of Ross. My oath therefore requires that when I am asked to vote on a subdivision plan by ANY property owner, and the plan satisfies all requirements of the Ross Township ordinance, I am duty bound to approve the plan.


The subdivision plan DID satisfy all requirements of the Ross Township subdivision ordinance. Furthermore, had this matter proceeded to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, the Court WOULD HAVE reversed the decision of the Board of Commissioners that denied approval of the plan. So, in what position would that have placed the Board of Commissioners?

Quite simply, there was a strong likelihood that the Court would have ordered Ross Township to pay the attorney's fees of Trek Development. Why, because the Court (via Judge Joseph James) has already warned municipalities through recent similar cases that such subdivision denials blatantly in violation of the subdivision ordinance of a municipality warrant the award of attorney's fees. Our liability insurance covers attorney's fees for our legal fees, but it does not cover attorney's fees awarded in favor of Trek, et. al. against Ross Township. So, where does Ross Township come up with the money to pay the award of attorney's fees? The Ross Township General Fund Balance which is the TAXPAYERS' MONEY.

Please pose this question to those who are residents of Ross Township: Is it fair to make all the taxpayers of Ross Township share in the cost to pay the attorney's fees of Trek Development?

Is it sound public policy for elected officials to cast a vote against a subdivision plan in the face of evidence that indicates it complies with all Township subdivision ordinances, knowing that on appeal the Court of Common Pleas will reverse the decision of the Board of Commissioners AND order payment of Trek's attorney's fees? Obviously, those residents of the City of Pittsburgh likely are not concerned with this since it is not their tax dollars at risk.

Second, the federal lawsuit had even greater negative implications for Ross Township. In a federal discrimination lawsuit, the prevailing party is automatically awarded attorney's fees. Moreover, Ross Township was faced with a potential punitive damage award (for egregious discriminatory conduct) against it AND four (4) commissioners individually.


I was stunned and appalled by some of the comments made by those who testified at the hearing on the subdivision request before the Board of Commissioners. If any of those casting stones at me have not seen the federal complaint filed in federal court by Trek Development, tell them to give me a call. It was the comments of some of these residents that helped set up the discrimination lawsuit filed by Trek Development when the plan was denied by a 4-4 tie vote by the Board of Commissioners.

As I told one resident last week, it would have been much wiser for the residents to pitch in and hire an engineer to testify as to why the plan did not satisfy the Township subdivision ordinance. It would perhaps would have raised a slight chance of uncertainly on appeal to the Court. Quite frankly, I am fed up with people refusing to take responsibility for their actions these days. Instead, most people try to point the finger away from any accountability for their actions, and elected officials are always an easy target.

In this case, the testimony given by residents that questioned the character of potential homeowners and their guests was "a plaintiffs' attorney dream" for a federal lawsuit. In the end, had Trek Development prevailed in the federal lawsuit, not only would we potentially have to pay their attorney's fees, but also any punitive damage award out of the Township's General Fund. Again, these damages would not be covered by our insurance carrier. Furthermore, the four (4) individual commissioners named as defendants in the federal lawsuit were potentially faced with paying a portion of the damages out of their own pocket, with NO indemnity from the Township for any damages awarded against them individually.

I am a very likely candidate for the 21st District House seat. I welcome the opportunity to face any resident in this area because in light of what I have just explained, I want them to tell me why my vote was "wrong," and why they think it was sound public policy for an elected official to vote against the subdivision plan.



I hope this helps some of you understand the topic at a more considerable degree and why commissioners have to vote with their head and not their heart.

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Writer's strike carries on...

For those TV junkies like me, a column by an Entertainment Weekly columnist may make some sense. While I don't totally agree with him, He made a lot of good points.

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1569832_20164555_20169858,00.html?iid=top25-20080109-Why+is+this+strike+not+over%3F

I want "The Office" back! Don't get me started about the prospects of the Academy Awards because of this. I can't wait until this strike is over (I don't discriminate, I hate all strikes including those of teachers).

Working to keep you posted...

Ross Commissioners nearly oust township manager...

Ross Township Commissioners came close to ousting Tom Lavorini as township manager by a 5-4 vote.

From the Post-Gazette:

Commissioners Dan Kinross, Grant Montgomery, David Mikec, Gerald O'Brien and Pete Ferraro voted in favor of keeping Mr. Lavorini.

Commissioners Chris Eyster, Daniel DeMarco, Lana Mazur and Grace Stanko voted against retaining him.

Mr. Eyster described Mr. Lavorini as an administrator who "solves a lot of problems that are created by his own doing."

He said the manager gave the commissioners poor advice during labor negotiations with township police that resulted in an expensive arbitration settlement. Mr. Lavorini also failed to cooperate with commissioners seeking to trim expenses during budget preparation, Mr. Eyster said.

After covering Ross Township for more than four years while this Tattler was working for my former employer, this has been a longtime coming. Lavorini is hard to deal with compared to other local managers and frankly, Ross Township could do better.

He made a few mistakes within the last year and if I was a Ross leader, this Tattler would NOT have voted to keep Lavorini around. This was not the first time a vote to keep Lavorini was a close one.

Hopefully he can change and represent Ross Township in a more fruitful way.

Working to keep you posted...

New Mexican restaurant gets good review...

The Post-Gazette's phantom diner, Munch, recently took a trip to Patron Mexican Grill along Perry Highway in Wexford (north of the flats). The eatery got a good review and the prices seemed in line compared to other area Mexican restaurants.

From the Post-Gazette:

It was at this point that Munch thought that even if the actual entrees were lame, the 30-mile round trip might be worth it just for drinks and chips.

But Munch is happy to report that the entrees were not lame, not lame indeed -- although picking one to order isn't easy.

The menu spans page after colorful page, with more than 50 dinner options. Munch eventually settled on the camerones diablo (spicy shrimp, $13.99), DOOM chose the chipotle el tio (shrimp and sausage in cheese sauce, $13.99), PHDSFOM picked the three-choice combo plate (pork tamale, chicken enchilada, beef taco, $9.99) and ACMPFOM ordered the enchilada supremas (one beef, one chicken, one cheese and one bean enchilada, $9.75).

Munch was pleased to see that Patron doesn't skimp on the shrimp: There were at least a dozen of them, coated in a pleasantly smoky sauce, with just the right amount of spiciness.

While I've been meaning to hit this restaurant for a while, I still have not yet ventured there. When I go, I'll let you know how it is.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who do you like???

While this Tattler has already said that Ross Township Commissioner Dan DeMarco may be a good choice to take the legislative seat of Lisa Bennington in Harrisburg, I was wondering what you all felt.

Who do you think would be a good candidate? Do you feel ex-representative Frank Pistella or ???

Post a comment or E-mail me: sirfuller@hotmail.com.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New local E-Magazine...

Hey all,

Well there is a new E-magazine that covers Ross, West View and other local areas that you all should take a look at. They have an interesting site and hopefully can expand their content to make this an even more viable resource.

Check it out: Across Ross

Keep your eyes peeled. I'll hopefully get the Tattler present on that site even more.

Working to keep you posted...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lisa Bennington's first and last term...

Well, this Tattler was reading this Sunday's edition of the Post-Gazette and saw a column about Pennsylvania state Rep. Lisa Bennington not running for re-election.

From the Post-Gazette:

It's been historically tough for women to reach the Pennsylvania statehouse, and now Rep. Lisa Bennington has announced she'll leave it after one term.

Rep. Bennington, 31, a divorce lawyer from Morningside fast with a quip, will finish out the year and then go back full-time to a line of work she finds less contentious and more rewarding. She settles about 90 percent of her divorce cases before the case reaches court but, in the House, "you can't negotiate with anyone."

Keep in mind, when I first interviewed Bennington when she was running for her position, the whole woman in Harrisburg thing wasn't really a part of her platform.

Rep. Bennington knew that her voice would amount to less than one-half of 1 percent of the 203-member House, but knowing something and experiencing it are different. In her law practice, "you are paid a billable hour and somebody is looking and can say, 'Did I get this service for what I paid?' "

She can have that experience when she helps a constituent with an individual problem, but she is frustrated by the glacial pace of lawmaking.

Let's wake up and smell the coffee. Everyone knows Harrisburg works at a very S-L-O-W pace.

Her most rewarding moment came when the House unanimously passed her bill to require that all Pennsylvania laws be available to the public free online. (The other 49 states already did that.) Her big disappointment came when the House didn't even vote on a bill to require hospitals to inform rape victims of the availability of emergency contraception.

Unfortunately, she did not make her own mark but aligned herself with the political machine in Harrisburg.

Maybe Harrisburg is not the place for anyone who already has a fulfilling career, as our statehouse demands an acceptance of accomplishing not very much. That leaves an open seat in a district straddling the Allegheny River, and divorce never looking so good.

Isn't interesting how this column does not even mention the North Hills? As I've always felt (and this article pretty much backs this up) is that Ross Township will always be treated as chopped liver by the way representative districts are drawn.

What a shame!

Working to keep you posted...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ross legislator not seeking re-election...

While watching NightTalk on PCNC this evening, I learned that Lisa Bennington (D-21) will not be seeking re-election to Pennsylvania's house of representatives. Bennington won election in 2006 thereby ousting longtime legislator Frank Pistella.

From the Pittsburgh Trib:

Elected as a reformer with visions of changing the way the state House operates, Rep. Lisa Bennington announced Thursday she will not seek re-election to a second term.

Bennington, 31, a Democrat from Morningside, defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Frank Pistella last year. Her two-year term will end Nov. 30.

From the Post-Gazette:

In 2006, she said, " ran for the Legislature because I was outraged that there were so few women elected to our state government," she said in a news release.

While this Tattler likes Bennington personally, I'm not that disappointed that she is not seeking another term. She won on a platform of reform in Harrisburg and I haven't seen much happen under that issue. I do understand that it is quite a daunting task to get anything done in the state and hopefully a good field of candidates throw their hats in the race.

It would be nice for once since the restructuring of legislative districts to have a representative whom actually lives in Ross Township rather than Bloomfield. There is one Ross Township commissioner who would be a great choice.

Hey, miracles can always happen.

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Survey results...

This Tattler has posted quite a few surveys lately and here are some results. Keep in mind that these are not scientific results but can give you good insight on what your neighbors are thinking.

I first asked if the much-disputed HEARTH project should have been approved by Ross Township commissioners after a threat of a lawsuit.

~ With 14 votes cast 70-percent said no while five votes (25%) voted in the affirmative. One voter thought it maybe either a good or bad idea.

~ An overwhelming 24 votes (75%) were cast saying that Walgreens should not have been open without the pharmacy on Christmas Day. Of the other votes, five voted yes (15%), two as a maybe (6%) and one as undecided (3%).

~ Finally, this Tattler asked if I should expand this blog's coverage area. Well, that idea has been nixed as 19 votes said no (73%) and one person voted yes (3%). Meanwhile, five votes were cast as maybe (19%) and one vote was undecided (3%).

For the time being, this Tattler will keep on focusing on the North Suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Working to keep you posted...