North Strabane supervisors approve new housing plan on McDowell Lane

Gideon Bradshaw
Observer Reporter

North Strabane Township supervisors narrowly approved a developer’s plans for a housing development that will boast more than 100 dwellings and add to the growing traffic load on McDowell Lane.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to sign off on Laurel Communities’ conditional-use application to build 41 townhouses and 88 apartments on land along McDowell. Washington County records show the nine-acre parcel is zoned residential.

Township manager Andy Walz told officials they could wind up in court if they rejected the project, known as Lakeview Village.

“We would lose the ability to attach those conditions at that time,” Walz said.

Supervisors Harold Close and Marcus Staley dissented in the vote. Their colleagues Robert Balogh, Bob Ross and Neil Kelly gave the plans approval.

Close said he had reservations about the project because of traffic congestion he expects to worsen.

“With all the developments being proposed on that road, the traffic studies are done on a case-by-case basis and not all together,” he said. “I have concerns, as well as the residents, that the traffic on that road is already pretty heavy, especially during peak hours, and I just have a concern with the safety of our residents.”

For example, Laurel Communities is seeking approval for the Scenic Valley project, which includes 52 townhouses on 28 acres. The site of that housing plan is also on McDowell Lane, as is the 35-acre site where the company is seeking approval for a 130-unit facility that would be operated by Presbyterian SeniorCare on 34 acres as part of the plans.

Gateway Engineers, which the township consults, reviews the traffic studies that are required for development applications. But even when the same developer is proposing multiple projects in the same area, there’s no requirement that the studies account for projects that haven’t been approved yet.

Township officials sought to address that gap with one of the requirements they put on the Lakeview project.

“It’s obvious all of these developments have an effect on each other,” said Anthony Asciolla, township planning coordinator. “So we want to make sure that that gets studied.”

Among the conditions is that the developer conduct a traffic study showing a “larger range of affected streets and including proposed developments and calculations.”

The plans supervisors approved called for four apartment buildings – two four-story buildings with 32 units each, and two three-story buildings with 12 units each – and a clubhouse and pool in the middle of the clusters of townhouses laid out nearby.

Those plans differ from the motion that supervisors approved. The language of that motion called for 41 houses and 56 apartments. Asciolla attributed the discrepancy to a typographical error on his part, and said the supervisors’ vote approved the plans the developer submitted.

“That shouldn’t be legally binding,” he said.

During the same meeting, supervisors granted conditional-use approval to developers who plan to build 46 single-family houses on Locust Street.

That project, known as the Forest View plan, shares at least two developers – Terry Bove and Michael Wetzel, a partner in Victor-Wetzel Associates – with the Laurel Communities proposals.