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“Money for Mayview patients?”

This article found in the Pitsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday, February 26, 2009 and can be found at … http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09057/951665-57.stm

The article discusses the ongoing debate over where the proceeds from the sale or lease of the land occupied by the now closed Mayview State Hospital.

Money for Mayview patients?
Coalition wants proceeds from sale of hospital to be used for mentally ill
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sally Jo Snyder is about to reach the first of her three major goals regarding the closed Mayview State Hospital.

Next month, an appraiser will be chosen to analyze the value of the hospital’s 300-acre site on the South Fayette-Upper St. Clair border, both in light of the current zoning and the best use of the property.

The highest and best language means the appraiser will look at the type of development that would make the property the most valuable, and will include that in the analysis.

“Historically, properties like this have been sold for a song, then developed, and the community makes a killing,” Ms. Snyder said Tuesday.

This time around, she instead wants the appraisal to be followed by a sale at fair market value with proceeds going to a fund that will fill the void of Mayview by caring for the mentally ill.

“Let’s honor what the true intent of that land is,” she said.

Ms. Snyder, a United Methodist minister who heads the Consumer Health Coalition and has taken up the cause of former Mayview patients, has been pushing her agenda at meetings of a task force set up by the state to determine the eventual use of the Mayview property.

About 100 coalition members showed up at last Thursday’s task force meeting wearing black and gold T-shirts bearing a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The time is always right, to do the right thing.”

One problem for the coalition, though, is that the enemy is nebulous. The politicians involved — task force co-chairs state Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, and State Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Robinson, as well as state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, and state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park — have been supportive of the coalition’s goals, and legislation on the use of sale proceeds is in the works.

But precedent, bureaucracy and the state’s financial straits all pose challenges.

Ms. Snyder noted that an authority created by Haverford Township in suburban Philadelphia bought the 250-acre Haverford State Hospital site for $3.5 million in 2002, and in 2006 sold 39 acres to a housing developer for $17 million. None of the money went to benefit the mentally ill.

Officials in South Fayette have said that only about 90 acres of the Mayview property are usable; the rest are wetlands, steeply sloped or railroad right-of-way. The property also is fairly isolated, without access to major roads; and the officials are of the opinion that the buildings will have to be razed due to asbestos concerns.

South Fayette Commissioners also took action in October to protect their own rights in the debate by rezoning the Mayview property. Previously zoned for rural residential use, it is now zoned for development as a business park, with offices and service-oriented shops. The township also is looking into creating a new zoning district for the property, possibly aimed at recreational use.

Ms. Snyder noted that she was not a real estate expert, but in her view “that’s a sweet piece of land that people will want to get their hands on.”

She envisions a commercial/retail mix, “kind of like a SouthSide Works thing” on the property, which fronts Chartiers Creek across from Upper St. Clair.

She said a $2 million ballpark figure mentioned by the state Department of General Services, which administers the site, was ridiculously low.

“That’s not in the ballpark,” she said. “That’s not even on Route 28 on the way to the ballpark.”

“Task force nears end of Mayview study”

The following article was found in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at the following address … http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_612203.html


Task force nears end of Mayview study

By The Tribune-Review

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


A task force studying how to re-use Mayview State Hospital property is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the dietary building of the Mayview campus in South Fayette.

The task force, chaired by state Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, and state Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Coraopolis, is wrapping up a year of study on possible uses of 30 buildings on the 335-acre campus near Boyce Road.

The mental health facility was officially closed in late December as part of a statewide move to treat patients in community-based settings. About a dozen patients are awaiting placement to other long-term facilities.

“Rezoning recommended for Mayview land”

I found this in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday, September 4, 2008, and it discusses the current line of thinking in regards to the possible uses for Mayview State Hospital land after it is closed.

Rezoning recommended for Mayview land
Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Mayview State Hospital property is likely to be rezoned soon for use by business parks, but it’s not likely to stay that way very long.

The South Fayette Planning Commission last Thursday recommended the B-1 business park zoning for 335 state-owned acres along Chartiers Creek. The state is planning to close the hospital and sell the property, which is zoned for rural residential use.

“People haven’t put a whole lot of thought into what the property should be when it grows up,” township solicitor Jon Kamin said. “B-1 would be a good use for it as we continue to study it — commercial zoning, but thoughtful commercial zoning.”

The South Fayette commissioners and planning commission have been trying to encourage commercial growth.

Business park zoning would ensure that if a developer bought land and tried to build on it immediately, it would be an office/warehousing/light industrial use.

The planning commission will also, however, start discussing soon what it would like to see in a long-term zoning plan for the main portion of the property. There has been talk of mixed-use village-style zoning to create an old-fashioned neighborhood with modern amenities.

There is a more specific vision, however, for the unused part of the hospital, which lies to the west of Mayview Road.

The portion, about one-fifth or one-sixth of the total property, is up a steep slope and abuts the township’s Fairview Park. The township is interested in acquiring the property to expand the park, and even if it doesn’t, would like to see compatible development there.

The planning commission Thursday said it would address that by starting work on language for a conservation/recreation district to be added to the township’s zoning ordinance, something that does not exist in the ordinance now. The district would be developed with the Mayview property in mind, but could be applied to other areas as well.

Mr. Kamin warned the planners that “we can’t just say there will be no development whatsoever.” Creating a zone so strict that the property would become de facto park space would constitute what’s called “regulatory taking,” he said — taking control of a property by ordinance rather than acquiring it legally.

“But we can custom-tailor it so that any development there would fit,” he said.

The planning commission also discussed concerns that have been raised over natural gas exploration that is going on throughout the region. North Fayette recently passed an ordinance limiting the hours of drilling and the areas where it can be done, and it’s been an issue in other municipalities as well.

Mr. Kamin, however, noted that a recent Commonwealth Court decision ruled that federal laws supercede local ones on drilling, making ordinances like North Fayette’s unenforceable, in his opinion. That ruling is being heard by the state Supreme Court, but “we shouldn’t be interfering with property rights when we know it’s an area in flux,” he said.

South Fayette engineer Dave Gardner noted that there have been “horror stories” about drilling companies taking the tops of ridges off and leaving areas a mess when they’re done.

Mr. Kamin said “the best thing for us to do for landowners would be to educate them as to their rights.”

He said landowners approached by drilling companies can negotiate various things into a contract, including buffering, remediation and sound-proofing for machines. And he advised them that given the amounts of money involved, a property owner would be wise to get a lawyer to work out the contract.

Brian David can be reached at bdavid@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0086.
First published on September 4, 2008 at 5:28 am
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