The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 2, 2012

Citizens get chance to join legal battle

EBENSBURG — The Richland Citizens Group will have the chance to raise its legal objections in the county court battle over whether Richland Township’s zoning ordinance should be amended to permit the construction of townhouses for income-eligible residents.

Judge Timothy Creany signed an order Tuesday afternoon granting permission for the citizens group to intervene in the case with the agreement of the attorneys for the township and the two plaintiffs – Ashbridge Oil Co., the owner of the 13-acre property, and Laurel Pointe Family Apartments, the developer.

Creany met for about 45 minutes in his chambers with the attorneys – Donald Graham of Pittsburgh, the plaintiffs’ attorney; township Solicitor Gary Costlow; and Timothy Leventry of Richland, who represents the citizens group.

Creany will hold a hearing Oct. 22 on whether additional testimony needs to be heard in the legal dispute or whether he can decide the case from what is already on the record.

In August, Ashbridge and Laurel Pointe filed an appeal asking the county court to overturn the decision by the Richland Township supervisors rejecting the zoning change.

The property – located at Walters and Nees avenues – has been zoned C-3 commercial. Ashbridge and Laurel Pointe are seeking to have it rezoned to R-4, a multiple-family zoning.

But the citizens group – made up of approximately 90 households – is contending that the change would have an adverse effect on the health, safety and legal interests of the residents.

Leventry said in the petition that members of the citizens group live in Richland or the adjacent municipalities of Stonycreek Township and Geistown Borough.

The proposed development would have 48 units along with a community building and a recreational facility for the townhouses residents.

The township held a hearing in June on the request for the re-zoning and, then later, the supervisors filed a written opinion denying the request for the zoning change.

The plaintiffs are contending that the C-3 commercial district zone severely restricts the use and development of the property and actually is spot zoning because adjacent property is zoned for residential use.

According to the plaintiffs, the Cambria County Planning Commission – as required – reviewed the request and determined that the C-3 zoning is inconsistent with the township’s comprehensive plan and also with the R-2 zoning of surrounding properties.


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