Residents oppose possible Peters Township interconnection
McMURRAY - For decades, residents of Peters Township’s Beacon Manor plan lived in relative seclusion.The only way to drive in and out of their neighborhood is using Locust Drive, part of which is so steep it exceeds the township standard for maximum grade. And anyone who visits from another part of Peters must travel through a portion of Upper St. Clair for access.A proposed residential development to the south, though, has the potential to change all that.During a three-and-a-half-hour meeting Monday night, Peters Township Council voted 4-2 to approve the preliminary plan for Juniper Woods, where developer Rywood LLC seeks to build 60 single-family homes in the $350,000-to-$500,000 price range on 30.4 acres off Thompsonville Road. Council members Frank Arcuri and Monica Merrell opposed, and Jim Berquist was not present.The approval comes with a provision to include construction of a public street, at the developer’s expense, connecting Juniper Woods with the currently no-outlet Manor Way at the southern edge of Beacon Manor. The possibility of such a change drew a capacity crowd to council chambers and a succession of neighborhood property owners voicing their disapproval.Cathy Jenkins of Locust Drive told council that because of her street’s steepness, several vehicles end up in her yard each year.“If you add 50 more cars coming down that hill, at the speed that they’ll come down that hill, that’s going to be more cars that end up in my front yard,” she said. “It’s unsafe, and it’s not meant to be driven in and out of 50 times a day.“The number she cited is based on estimates of township traffic engineer Michael Mudry of Traffic Planning and Design regarding peak-hour flow, from 5 to 6 p.m.“With this many homes that we’re talking about, that’s 57 trips total generated by this development within an hour,” he said about Juniper Woods. “My best projection, it’s about a 50-50 split. Half the people will come out onto Thompsonville Road. Half will come out on Manor Way.“Meanwhile, police traffic counts on Locust Drive showed a high of 22 vehicles from 5 to 6.Along with concerns about increased traffic, Beacon Manor residents also mentioned issues such as narrow streets, pedestrian safety and disturbing of wetlands as reasons for objecting to the interconnection.From the municipal perspective, the township’s policy has been to promote such links, a stance that is reinforced by the comprehensive land-use plan adopted in 2013, with the intent of improving access for the likes of snow-removal equipment, refuse-collection vehicles and emergency services.“Having a second access out of a housing plan is a very important feature for public safety needs,” Peters fire Chief Dan Coye wrote in a memo to council.Township manager Paul Lauer addressed the long-term implications with regard to Juniper Woods.“If this interconnection is not made, this plan with 60 lots will have only one way in and one way out, and there will be no opportunity in the future to change that,” he told council. “It seems as though there are multiple opportunities to extend connections into the plan.“Because of varying circumstances, he explained, links are not possible with nearby Marble and Elizabeth drives, which would provide expedient connections westward to Route 19.With approval of the preliminary plan, which features a general layout and configuration, the development company and its engineers now will work on preparing a final plan that will be subject to scrutiny by the township planning commission and approval by council before any work starts.In August, the planning commission recommended council’s approval of the preliminary plan, but without the interconnection requirement.