Thursday, September 28, 2006

Planners Table Application for Bower Hill Road Drugstore

The Mt. Lebanon planning board tabled a developer's request Tuesday night for preliminary approval for the Shoppes on Bower Hill, which would include a Walgreens and 241 parking spaces, plus some existing office and retail space.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Lebo: The TIF Goes On?

Opponents of the TIF proposed for the Zamagias real estate deal in Mt. Lebanon remind me that reports its demise are premature. The deadline for considering the TIF proposal is up for extension by the Mt. Lebanon Commission -- with the new (proposed) deadline set for February 28, 2007. The TIF may be barely breathing, but it's breathing. A 2/28 deadline buys a lot of time for Zamagias.

Linked here are two additional documents sent to the Commission and opposing the proposed extension. The first is a letter to Commission president Barbara Logan explaining (again) why this is a bad deal [filename: fleece.pdf]. The second is an analysis of Zamagias's budget figures [filename: feasibility.pdf]. Both are supplied by Bill Matthews.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lebo: Uptown Shops PTA Night Coming October 16

Linda sent in this notice:

Uptown Shops Mt. Lebanon PTA Night
Sponsored by the Shops and Restaurants on Washington Road
Uptown Mt. Lebanon

Monday, October 16 from 5-8 pm

Come eat and shop at participating businesses and they will give 10% of profits back to the Mt. Lebanon PTA to be distributed to the 10 district schools. Look for signs on business doors to see if they are a part of "PTA Night" or stop in Planet Art Gallery to get a list of participating businesses.

Businesses include:

Molly Brannigan's
Aladdin's Eatery
Aldo Coffee
Uptown Coffee
Empire Music
Planet Art Gallery
zzz's a slumber boutique
Ona Boutique
Zipper Blues
More Than Words
La Boheme
Celtic Cross
Hand Works / Create-a-Frame
Kool Kat Design
Salon Vivace (10% on all gift certificates)
Salon Beleza (10% on all gift certificates)
Lady's Fitness
Sound Color Productions
Art by M.A. Classes
Fidelity Bank

Support your school, support local business, support our community.

We have 5436 students, if we can average $55 per student that will amount to almost $3000 per school! So have dinner, do a little holiday shopping, have dessert and coffee, relax.

For more info:
Linda Mitchell
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School District Superintendent Leaving Early

Dr. George Wilson, superintendent of the Mt. Lebanon School District, shocked a number of people this week when he announced his retirement at the end of the school year -- a year before his contract with the district expires. He did not give any specific reason for his early retirement, but stated that after 36 years in education, it was "time to retire".

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Planning Starts For New High School

The Mt. Lebanon School District will embark on initial planning for a new high school next month by forming an Educational Specifications Committee and holding the first public planning workshop.

The purpose of the committee will be to develop a facilities guideline and space requirements for the high school project. During the past year, the school board has discussed the need for either a new or renovated high school. No cost figure has been mentioned.

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Sewer Rates and Solicitation Rules

Mt. Lebanon Commissioners approved sewer rate increases last week, from $2.45 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $4.05 per 1,000 gallons of water used, effective with January bills. The increase will cost the average homeowner $90 a year.

The money will be used for sewer repairs as part of a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The commissioners voted to update the town's solicitation ordinance to stop requiring canvassers to get municipal permits before going door to door after the municipality lost a federal court case that ruled the practice was unconstitutional. The provisions regarding people selling something remain unchanged.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Main Park Contract Trimmed To Add Play Equipment

Unfortunately, no one noticed that $78,000 worth of playground equipment had been removed from the contract to build the new "Martha's Playground" in our Main Park -- so the original contract has been trimmed in order to make sure that the playground actually has stuff to play on!

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Lebo: Zamagias Project Status

It's metaphor time:

The Zamagias condo project proposed for the Washington Road/Bower Hill Road intersection is on life support. Turn out the lights; the party's over. It's all over but the shouting.

Even if the developer wants the project to happen, Mt. Lebanon Commissioners can sense that it probably won't. And they're signaling that a Tax Increment Financing package is unlikely to be approved:
The Mt. Lebanon board of commissioners is willing to grant an extension to a developer who wants to build a luxury condominium tower, even if it appears the board doesn't believe it will be built.

"You kind of have to play their game, but I know how it's going to turn out," said board President Barbara Logan during a meeting last week as she gave the go-ahead to solicitor James Roberts to contact the Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority to draw up paperwork authorizing an extension through Feb. 28.

The extension is a disappointment to TIF opponents, but it gives the Commissioners cover in the event of a lawsuit.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blog-Lebo: Comments Policy Revised

I've received several private emails over the last few weeks asking me to reconsider Blog-Lebo's comments policy (which required commenters to have Blogger accounts).

So I did. The settings have been changed; now, anyone can comment. However, comments are moderated (as they are at my other blogs), which means they'll go through me. I very rarely reject comments, but remember: play nice. Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will get extra scrutiny.

Thank you.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lebo: Community Meetings to Cover High School Renovation

The MTLSD school superintendent has announced that residents will be invited to join a committee evaluating visions for renovations to the high school.

Unfortunately, the committee's proposed meeting schedule seems to shut out just about anyone who works during the day -- which is to say, a large proportion of interested Mt. Lebanon residents (say, working professionals who know something about managing large-scale construction/renovation projects?). Even if this is a good faith mistake, it's dumb. At least some of the meetings should be held in the evening.

Link to the superintendent's letter:
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Friday, September 15, 2006

People Say Pool Won't Need To Be Fancy

Municipal officials and consultants met with Mt. Lebanon residents last week to discuss the proposed aquatic center. Attendees were broken down into small focus groups to discuss their opinions regarding the issue and then reported their findings back to the group as a whole. Two more public meetings will be held before the consultants present their findings.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mystery Retailer Likes Parking Lot Site

The Post-Gazette has reported today that a local developer, Jim DiGregory, is interested in purchasing the land currently used as a parking lot next to Howard Hanna's building on Washington Road. This parcel has been considered in the past for other development -- most recently a hotel.

As expected, Mr. DiGregory cannot reveal the client who is interested in the parcel, but stated that they "would like to move quickly on this". Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lebo: Friends of Williamsburg Park

Speaking of good things happening in Mt. Lebanon, here's one, culled from the Comments:

A group of neighbors are raising money to improve Williamsburg Park. Check out their website at -- that's Friends of Williamsburg Park.
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More on Lebo Trees

Tom Moertel, who blogs at, emailed me the following comment on my lament about Mt. Lebanon trees. With his permission, I'm posting it below:
Presumably, it costs less to repair sewers if the sewer people don't
have to accommodate nearby trees. Removing "big, tall, healthy, straight trees," then, is probably some administrator's idea of saving money. It is, unfortunately, very likely to be a bad idea, one that costs the community more than it saves.

According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, "Healthy trees can add up to 15 percent to residential property value."[1] In a recent report to the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Committee, university researchers found that trees in residential neighborhoods are associated with increased home values and property-tax revenues, each good tree representing a one-percent increase in a home's sales price, and in some cases considerably more:

Research comparing sales prices of residential properties
with different tree resources suggests that people are
willing to pay 3 to 7 percent more for properties with tree
resources versus few or no trees. One of the most
comprehensive studies of the influence of trees on
residential property values was based on actual sales prices
and found that each large front-yard tree was associated
with about a 1 percent increase in home sales prices
(Anderson and Cordell 1988). A much greater value of 9
percent ($15,000) was determined in a U.S. Tax Court case
for the loss of a large black oak on a property valued at
$164,500 (Neely 1988). Depending on average home sales
prices, the value of this benefit can contribute
significantly to cities' property tax revenues. [2, p. 64]

To apply these findings to Mt. Lebanon, consider a middle-of-the-road property, having a taxable value of $145,600.[3] When a street-side, healthy tree is removed from such a property, the studies suggest the loss is associated with, on average, a one-percent or $1,450 reduction in taxable value to the community (not to mention the larger loss in resale value to the property's owner). If it takes on average twenty years before a replacement tree reaches maturity, the community loses
about $962 in present-value tax revenue over this period.[4]

Ignoring the immediate loss in home value and "curb appeal" to the property's owner, and ignoring the aesthetic loss to the neighborhood, if we look only at the collective pocketbook of the county, municipality, and school district, we have good reason to question the tree-removal policy. It seems unlikely that the community will ever save enough on sewer maintenance to break even on the lost tax revenue -- and tree-removal fees -- that each healthy-yet-removed street tree represents.

In any case, it seems that the community has grounds to ask its representatives to examine the costs and benefits of the tree-removal policy more carefully. From all outside appearances, it looks like we are squandering both our trees and our money.




[4]Using 2006 millage rates from [3] and assuming future
real-estate appreciation and millage increases will offset
typical discount rates, the present-value net loss per
tree is $962 for a median-valued home:
20 years * $4,810 tax revenue per year * 1% loss per tree
= $962 loss in tax revenue per tree
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Monday, September 04, 2006

So Long to More Nice Trees

Trees have been disappearing from my neighborhood. Big, tall, healthy, straight trees. It's no secret what's been happening: The sanitary sewer people are out repairing their lines. The sewer lines are aligned with the gas lines. When the sewer folks decide to dig, they need to avoid the gas lines. Equitable Gas marked the gas lines. When the gas line markings and the sewer folks' apparent need to dig coincide at a spot that's too close to a tree, the tree gets the deadly red "X." Soon after, out it goes.

Maybe someone in the chain of responsibility could step in and say, hmmm, can we find a place to dig that solves the sewer problem *and* saves the tree? Just a thought.
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