One of my local correspondents sent me a copy of the flyer promoting attendance at Monday night's Commission meeting. Here it is:
The text may be a little hard to make out from the image (you can click on the image for a larger version). The flyer says:
Why was Kossman granted a unilateral six-month extension by our appointed City Manager effectively sabotaging prior Commission restrictions? Why did a stripped down Planning Board ignore residents’ pleas? Why did the Mt. Lebanon Traffic Engineer suddenly reverse allegiance and back a pro-Kossman set of calculations?
Why is Kossman building more office space in a glutted market when he has huge amounts of vacant space in his present buildings?
What should we tell our children when they ask why this lush acreage of green woods . . . this natural relief from man-made sprawl . . . will be destroyed forever? How can we ever again listen to the Commissioners pay phony lip-serve to green space?
What can we say to the 80+ year old seniors who have fought this for years and years and are now giving up?
Unlike The Sleepy Hollow sidewalk issue, public reaction against this is unanimous. Find out why Commissioners’ fear of law suits discourages the slightest illusion of empathizing and listening to the public that elected them.
Whatever happened to government of, by, and for the people?
Here and elsewhere, the opposition to Kossman relies on three allegations. My view is that none of them have merit. That's lawyer-ese for: Opposition isn't unanimous. I don't see any reason that the development shouldn't go forward. Here are the three allegations, and this is how I see them:
1. Mt. Lebanon commissioners and planning personnel are corrupt.
Do we really want to go down this road? There's mud-slinging, and then there's hard evidence. Right now, all I see is mud. My bottom line: that's ridiculous.
2. The Kossman proposal will generate more traffic than the Castle Shannon Blvd./Mt. Lebanon Blvd. intersection can handle. (Variation: this is a quiet residential area not suited to office-oriented development.)
My answer to the variation is: that's just not so. The traffic question is more important. "Too much traffic" is a standard move by the opposition in any development game. I've been through this before. Once in my Oakland, CA neighborhood, where Dreyer's Ice Cream wanted to build a large corporate headquarters; and once in my suburban California hometown, where the Catholic Church wanted to sell several hundred acres of open space, in the middle of town, to a luxury home developer. Both times, "traffic" and "it's not suited to a quiet residential neighborhood" were the rallying cries of the opposition. Both times, the opposition lost, and both times, the traffic failed to materialize. My bottom line: Is traffic going to be a problem? Maybe yes; maybe no. Experience teaches me to be skeptical of the traffic argument, and experience also teaches me that the argument isn't vehicular.
3. We shouldn't preserve remaining open space for the community.
Kossman owns the property. If the community wants to save it for open space, then the community should put up the money to buy it. That might be the municipality (who's you willing to chip in via increased taxes?). That might be an environmental organization like The Nature Conservancy or the Trust for Public Land. That might be a neighborhood organization that puts together a bid. If the land is really that valuable as open space, then it shouldn't be too difficult to find the financing. Otherwise, there's no reason that Kossman (or any private
landowner) should have to subsidize a public
preference for parkland.
I've got more pro-Kossman arguments in hand, but my point is clear. Mt. Lebanon needs more
high-value commercial development, not less. It needs to be more
welcoming of real estate developers (though it needs to tax them fully), not less. And being more welcoming includes not nit-picking the proposal to death to satisfy the immediate neighbors. Developers know when to walk away, and they know when to run.
All of us who own residential real estate in Mt. Lebanon bear a crushing tax burden. One important way to ease that burden down the road is to increase tax revenues from commercial development. That doesn't mean that any old development is OK; the Kossman building doesn't belong in Bird Park. But the Castle Shannon/Mt. Lebanon Blvd. corridor has lots of other commercial development, and there's excellent public transportation right there. The Kossman building should go ahead.