Final plan for 60-home development in Peters Township receives approval

Harry Funk
Observer Reporter

The final plan for a proposed 60-lot residential development off Thompsonville Road has received approval from Peters Township Council.

By a 5-2 vote Monday night, council gave the green light for Rywood LLC to develop Juniper Woods, which will feature single-family detached homes in the anticipated price range of $350,000 to $500,000. Opposing the measure were Frank Arcuri and Monica Merrell, who also voted against the development’s preliminary plan when it came before council in October.

Along with entry to Juniper Woods from Thompsonville Road, plans also call for a connection to Manor Way, a little-used street that terminates near the northern property line of the development. The latter would open a second means of access to a neighborhood that, for six-plus decades, has been served only by vehicles traveling on a single street, Locust Drive.

As such, residents of Manor and Locust, along with nearby Beacon Way and Franklin Drive, packed previous council and planning commission meetings to express concerns about a potential influx of traffic and its detrimental effect on safety.

Manor Way resident Joseph Delisio reiterated those concerns at the latest council meeting while contending a condition for the final plan’s implementation set by the planning commission has not been met: “The Manor Way construction details should be worked out prior to council considering the plan for recording.”

A report to council from planning director Ed Zuk, though, notes the requirements of the condition as having been completed.

“It, in fact, has been worked out,” township manager Paul Lauer explained. “The question was, where would this road terminate out of this plan? And we now know that. What we are in the process of doing is attempting to negotiate an agreement, and there is a difference of opinion among attorneys as to what it is we are required to acquire.”

A plan of lots recorded in 1954 shows a proposed roadway that eventually became Manor Way, but the configuration as presented differs from what actually was constructed. According to the opinion of solicitor John Smith, Peters Township owns the 33-foot-wide swath containing the road, while the 40-foot-wide path of the intended right of way reverted back to the neighboring property owners.

Among his citations was a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling dating all the way back to 1857: “Marshy ground, an increased elevation, a deep ravine and many other things may induce a deviation; yet once laid out, there it must remain.”

Delisio asserted the original right of way would make for a safer connection between his neighborhood and Juniper Woods, pointing out safety and liabilities issues related to the design of the proposed street.

“Anybody walking on that road facing the direction of traffic would have nowhere to go. It would increase the potential of a vehicular-pedestrian accident,” he told council, noting a wall to be constructed might pose additional hazards. “That wall would not be there if the connection were made from the existing 40-foot right of way.”

In any case, Lauer continues negotiations for the township to purchase the applicable property.

“I am confident, in working with the neighbors, that we’re going to be able to resolve this one way or another,” he told council.

Township public safety officials recommend street connections to provide optimal access, and the Beacon Manor neighborhood presents somewhat of a logistical anomaly:

“Current access to these neighborhoods,” Zuk wrote in his memo, “is restricted by having to leave the township and re-enter through Upper St. Clair Township.”