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...


Anonymous said...

I will be supporting another candidate who will be running against DeMarco.

Ticked off Taxpayer said...

I hope the next time Hearth/Trek wants to build this type of housing in the North Hills it is next door or across the street from you Mr. Demarco. We are appalled at the fact that this organization(Hearth) has been able to not pay any real estate taxes to the North Hills School District for the past 12 years and have been able to drain the school system of millions of dollars in the process. And isn't it convenient that Ross Township lost all the papers that had to do with the conversion of the St. Benedict's school into the 15 apartments. We will do anything we can to keep you from taking Bennington's position. This is our tax money being used against us and we don't like it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with ticked off tax payer.

Not a fan of Demarco said...

Regarding Mr. Demarco's comment about the group not in favor of the Hearth/Trek project hiring a engineer, I thought that is why we pay the Ross Twp. engineer to represent us. Guess I was wrong. Also attention North Hills School District: If you want to upgrade the schools just sue the Ross Commissioners and you will get even more than you ask for. Just get lessons from Hearth and Trek.

Another Ross Twp. Taxpayer said...

Mr. Demarco, Has it been fair for the past 12 years for the taxpayers to foot the bill for the Hearth children attending the North Hills School District without paying any taxes to the School District? We suggest some investigating into this problem. We the taxpayers would like an answer.This has surely been a drain of the taxpayers money.So before you judge us we think this issue should be settled.

Ross Twp. Taxpayer said...

Mr. Demarco: We are still waiting for a answer to the above comment.
Don't you think the taxpayers are entitled to the truth.

Anonymous said...

Mr DeMarco are you appalled by the shooting of the 72 yr old clerk at the Indian Market on 3 Degree Rd. in Ross Township? That is what appalls me!