Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Board President: Zoning Hearing Board’s Decision is “Incorrect”

At the opening of last night’s regular meeting of the Mt. Lebanon School Board, Mr. Ed Kubit, Board President, discussed the School District’s being denied the zoning variances it needed for the High School Project. “We are disappointed with the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board,” he said.

There are two ways, he explained, that School District’s new design for the high school fails to meet zoning requirements: it exceeds the allowed lot-coverage percentage and lacks sufficient parking. He argued, however, that the new design does improve on the existing facility in both of these regards, and that this improvement should be enough: “It is the school district’s position that it is entitled to the approval of these two non-conformities as a matter of right because in each instance that element of the design actually makes the property more conforming than it is right now.”

The new design improves lot coverage by 0.2 percent and adds 3 parking spaces (of the additional 26 required by code).

The next step, he suggested, may be court: “We feel that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision is incorrect. We are currently reviewing all of our opinions to determine a course of action that is in the best interests of our students and the community. One possible option is an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe that an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas is an option. I don't want tax dollars to pay for both sides of a legal battle, a fight over a bad plan!!!
That is all it is, a bad plan! You can't be less non-compliant or more non-compliant. You are either compliant or non-compliant. The CAC said it was a bad plan. The zoning board said it was a bad plan. The community is saying it is a bad plan. What is there not to understand? It is a bad plan. Let go of it and go back to the drawing board.
Elaine Gillen

March 16, 2010 3:04 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Interesting, But, While you were all looking at the TIC-TOC of the INTEREST Rate clock regarding the $75mm of debt already issued, might I bring to your attention something that the right hand was doing while you were watching the left hand.

Who amongst you read the "NON SCHOOL RELATED DRUG AND ALCOHOL VIOLATIONS" policy from last evening that was passed. http://www.mtlsd.org/district/stuff/policy%20jkf%20non%20school%20related%20drug%20and%20alcohol%20offenses%20clean.pdf

Please, don't jump to the conclusion that I believe that kids should not be disciplined for underage drinking and drug use. There are laws and clearly state what is legal and illegal when it comes to drug and alcohol use, and you as a parent may have your own family policies. However, it is not the duty of the school board to seek out comfirmation of what may have happened with your child during NON-SCHOOL and NON-SCHOOL SPONSORED activities, and then dole out punishment for activities that the board deems inappropriate. THAT is YOUR responsibility as a parent the Mt. Lebanon's police department as law enforcers.

"The District believes that high standards of conduct and
citizenship are essential for students and considers participation in extracurricular/interscholastic
activities, which include but are not limited to interscholastic, club and intramural athletics,
student organizations, attendance at school functions such as sporting events, dances, musical
and theatrical performances, and participation in commencement ceremonies ("School
Activities") to be a privilege and not a right. The District recognizes the importance of students
making healthy and safe choices, when in a position to make a decision about risky social
behaviors. The Mt. Lebanon School District has the right to adopt and enforce reasonable rules
and regulations regarding participation in extracurricular/interscholastic activities."

Really, is it legal for them to play big brother and regulate your life outside of school. So by the board policy standards, where will it stop. What if they hear that your child had the flu, but still went to synagogue or church. HMM. Maybe your child was caught not washing his/her hands after using the restroom. Clearly this behavior is at odds with Paragraph 1, Line 8
"The District recognizes the importance of students
making healthy and safe choices, when in a position to make a decision about risky social
behaviors. The Mt. Lebanon School District has the right to adopt and enforce reasonable rules
and regulations regarding participation in extracurricular/interscholastic activities."
SO, they have become the Risk police for social activities that have NOTHING to do with school?!?

The school board notes that:
"Students will be restricted from School Activities for a prescribed period of time for any of the
following conduct that is confirmed to have occurred off-campus at a non-school related

This is a huge overstepping of the boundries by the board. Wait, maybe that laptop Camera issue over near Philly was the trial run for this?

Michael andrascik

March 16, 2010 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Bob Reich, Jr. said...

Couldn't agree more, Elaine.

Somebody with more computer skills than I needs to do one of those "face morph" things where a person's face (Ed Kubit) morphs into anothers (Nancy Pelosi) over a short period of time. The ironies between this debacle and the socialization of our healtcare system are just too rich....

March 16, 2010 4:35 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

I'm not going to profess that our Zoning Variance process is perfect, but I would like to think that uber architect Celli would have a Plan B or better yet would have addressed this contingency a long time ago. Certainly, the progress on this project doesn't screach to halt over something as silly as 50 parking spaces? And if that was ever a risk, all the more reason to engage the Municipality early and often. Why shouldn't we expect the same result when and if a modified traffic plan needs to be approved by the Municipality? I'm going out on a limb here (well, not really) and suggesting that Pres Kubit's remarks won't be well-received by many on Washington Rd.

March 17, 2010 6:52 AM  
Anonymous Kim Ressler said...

I'm disappointed on both sides. The designers and supporters of this project should have never assumed that their variances would be grandfathered in. That is irresponsible and arrogant. However, I recall a member of the zoning board speaking out at the coummunity meeting at which the Ed Spec Committee/DeJong conclusions were presented - he stressed that the school board had better toe the line at every step or the project would not be approved. What a show of cooperation! This episode illustrates one of my frustrations with Mt. Lebanon - the municipality and the school district do not speak with one another in any constructive way. Neither arm of local government seems to understand that their clients, the taxpayers, are one and the same!

March 17, 2010 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again we agree. My understanding of zoning hearings is there is prerequisite that any all alternative solutions have been investigated and proven inadequate.
Celli and the district came to the hearing, in my opinion (I attended) ill prepared. The zoning officials saw it that way too, apparently.
So, while parking space and lot coverage were the official reasons for rejecting the requests, that isn't the full story!
Dean Spahr

March 17, 2010 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you work with anyone that you can't trust. If we could or do, why the surge in right-to-know request. Why the need for $49,000 worth of software to process those request.
The district had their hands slapped over Sablegate for not being upfront with their constituents. It wasn't illegal, but it certainly transparent or open.
Hardly a foundation for cooperation or trust with the municipality or community.
Secretive meetings, designed to skirt Sunshine Laws don't help.
Dean Spahr

March 17, 2010 8:45 AM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

The school board’s results from legal actions over the past few years have resulted in expensive legal fees. For instance:

1) The school board had a legal argument with Dr. Sable, lost their legal fees and paid Dr. Sable $5,000 for her legal fees and an additional $500,000.

2) The 2004-2005 swimming pool was denied a zoning variance and the school board sued the Zoning Hearing Board and lost their legal fees and the pool.

3) A school board member’s husband and her reelection committee contacted the Upper Saint Clair Waves attorney to bring a court petition against two senior citizens who spoke at board meetings. The result was the senior citizens had to pay their own attorney’s fees even though they won the case, a board member lost re-election, while the school board member lost the Presidency of the school board, and her husband and reelection committee lost the court petition and the court appeal.

Now with a 0-3 win-loss record in legal arguments the school board again is considering paying legal fees to go to court with our tax dollars to overturn the denial of a zoning variance.
How much did the school district pay the attorney leading the superintendent through his presentation at the zoning hearing where the district was denied two zoning variances by a unanimous vote of the Zoning Hearing Board?

March 17, 2010 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all the discussions about the various plan options, the primary opposition of the current plan has been based on cost, not parking spaces or percentage of permeable ground. I'm not sure why the current plan creates a need for a variance that the cheaper designs would not also create. Given the limited space we have I don't see how meeting the code is achievable. More parking creates less permeable ground and there just isn't any more space. Those in favor of redesign are jumping on the variance denial because it stops the project not because it supports their cost reduction position. Since all the imagined designs would require a variance, this shouldn't be used to force additonal money to be spent redesigning and delaying the project.
Kate McGrady

March 19, 2010 9:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...


The people in our community who are concerned with the excesses of the current, $113 million plan are “jumping on the variance denial,” I suspect, not so much because it stops the current plan, but because it’s a highly visible demonstration of what they have been saying all along: that the school-board directors who are pushing the current plan are out of touch with reality and, despite claims that everything is going according to plan, do not have control of the project. It’s hard to pretend that you’re in control of something that was just driven into a brick wall.

What these people are saying, then, is that the emperor is naked. They’re “jumping on” the point because they want his supporters to take a good look at that nakedness before deciding, once again, to follow the emperor on what he claims is the secret path – known only to emperors like himself – to the best clothing store in town.


March 19, 2010 10:18 AM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Kate, we had a swimming pool stopped in 2005 because of a zoning problem. The school board sued the zoning Hearing Board and lost the case.

Since the president of the board in 2005 is now on the Master Design Committee you would think she would have the common sense to warn the architect to check the zoning BEFORE he did the design - apparently that didn't happen.

March 19, 2010 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't state whether this is fact or not, but several people have told me if they stay within the current foot print they might not have to apply for variances. One seemed to be very positive that the CAC plan would not need a variance.
Why would anyone design a structure to this stage without a reasonable assurance the design would get approval. WIth the nanotorium rejection it would be an obivious first step.
What a gross waste of money that could be better spent on educating kids and paying teachers.
Dean Spahr

March 19, 2010 10:53 AM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

“Since all the imagined designs would require a variance, this shouldn't be used to force additional money to be spent redesigning and delaying the project.” 
 Kate McGrady on Blog Lebo – March 19, 2010

Great example for the kids, Kate! Teach them to ignore the law because it doesn’t suit their purpose.

That is as bad as the comment; “No variance would be required for a renovation since the footprint wouldn't be changing.”

Hmmm? Build two new entire wings (one academic and one athletic) and yes, all of a sudden you would be required to get a variance. This does track back DIRECTLY to the cost of the project.

March 19, 2010 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John & Kate:
The way it was explained to me-- the CAC plan actually reduced the footprint a little, which reduced the required parking and coverage. Again I don't know if this explanation is true or not.
As for imagined designs... was the CAC plan actually evaluated or just paid a glancing visit by the board. I think one of the board members after hearing the CAC presentation, remarked that they had no intention of revisiting bldg. C. So does it fit in the category of an imagined design?
Dean Spahr

March 19, 2010 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been corrected by what I consider a more qualified source... the CAC plan they say would also need a variance.
Dean Spahr

March 19, 2010 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's try this another way. The English teacher assigns a two page, double spaced essay due next Friday, but asks for an outline or a rough draft on Monday. Little Susie submits her outline on Monday, but the teacher returns it with red pencil marks all over it. What should little Susie do? She has two choices. She can look at the recommendations made by the teacher and start over with a new outline. Or she can write a five page single spaced essay based on her incorrect rough draft and get a bad grade. "Well more is better, right? I worked real hard on it, so I should get a good grade," says little Susie. Shouldn't we be asking Celli and company to come up with a new outline? And give them the missing 16th design criteria of a BUDGET, using the 75 million dollars we already borrowed and say, "You are the professionals. Make it work. You turned in a bad plan with red pencil marks all over it. This is not acceptable." We are paying top dollar for a good grade. Why doesn't the school board majority learn a lesson from our English teachers? We have a bad plan. Make them go back to the drawing board. Don't settle for anything less than an A.
Elaine Gillen

March 19, 2010 3:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Sorry folks, we don't publish anonymous comments. Somebody just posted an otherwise good comment, however. If that person would email me, I'll be happy to reply with the text of the comment so they can resubmit it, this time signing it with full name.

March 19, 2010 6:40 PM  

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