Attorneys representing residents of the Fountain Pointe condominium complex and the owner/developer of a site that houses a new business took part in a sometimes-heated court hearing last week, but they began working on a possible compromise in a City Hall corridor.
Fountain Pointe is at 9200 Blue Grass Road, while Penn Jersey Paper moved into new headquarters earlier this year at 9355 Blue Grass Road. Residents have concerns about tractor-trailer traffic entering and exiting the company’s property. The 48-year-old company, most recently located at 2801 Red Lion Road, opened a 255,336-square-foot distribution center in May.
Condo owners contend they didn’t know anything about the project until resident Marvin Shenkman spoke with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 business agent Ray Dellavella, who was picketing daily with a giant inflatable rat.
Local 98, which had concerns about wages paid to the electrical contractor, hired attorney George Bochetto to represent the neighbors.
The city Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a building permit, though Bochetto argues that developer DP Partners did not post a notice for 30 days in a conspicuous place, as the law requires. “The posting was deficient. Nobody saw it. No one can see it from the road. They had no idea this was taking place,” the attorney said.
Bochetto, a former state boxing commissioner, explained that the condo association suffered “a split-decision loss” in an earlier 2-2 vote of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Carol Tinari and Sam Staten sided with neighbors, while chairwoman Lynette Brown-Sow and Peter Gonzales backed the business.
Neighbors appealed, and both sides appeared on Sept. 21 in front of Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto.
Bochetto described Blue Grass Road as a busy, narrow two-lane street. “No shoulders, no sidewalks,” he said of the area in question.
There are other commercial, industrial and residential uses in the area, and speed bumps slow the pace of traffic.
Bochetto said the Penn Jersey Paper space had been three lots that were consolidated into one. It includes 40 bays for tractor-trailers.
According to a traffic study, the company’s opening has resulted in 1,100 more vehicles on the road each weekday.
At this point, Bochetto is not arguing for a teardown.“I think that train has left the station,” he said. “The building is built.”
Dellavella, though, has a different view. “The building should come down,” he said.
Bochetto has suggested a couple of remedies, including a court decision prohibiting left turns into the paper company site. A better outcome for neighbors would be for the trucks to enter at an existing traffic light on Grant Avenue. That entrance already accommodates vehicles for two trucking firms, a beverage distributor and a concrete plant.
Alicia Hickok and Jerald Goodman, of the law firm Drinker Biddle, represented DP Partners, which leases its ground to Penn Jersey. Hickok told Panepinto that the original appeal was untimely and meritless. She added that the posting for the building permit was appropriate and that it should have been obvious that something was going on at the site.
“The picketers were on the property from October on,” she said.
Hickok argued that only the city Department of Streets should be able to determine whether trucks should be prohibited from turning into the plant off Blue Grass Road.
Bochetto favors a court ruling, dismissing the Department of Streets as “slow and ineffectual.”
Hickok cited 8th Police District figures that showed no increase in the number of accidents during or after construction.
Despite the differences, both sides seemed willing to compromise.
“They have every right to come to us to discuss it with us,” Hickok said.
Afterward, Dellavella and the attorneys discussed the matter outside the courtroom and have more time to come to an agreement, since Panepinto said he would give them 30 days. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com