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Jeannette Council allows gas station plan to move forward at Monsour site

December 27, 2017 GMT

A divided Jeannette City Council approved a zoning change at a tense meeting Tuesday that would allow a gas station at the site of the former Monsour Medical Center.

Residents grilled council members and Don Tarosky Jr., owner of developer Colony Holding, about the proposed Jayhawk Commons development, which would bring several retail and commercial businesses to the long-dormant Route 30 property. It would be anchored by a gas station and convenience store.

One of the critics was incoming Mayor Curtis Antoniak.

“I am very troubled by this vote being rushed through before myself and (incoming councilwoman) Nancy Peters are sworn into office,” he said.

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Most residents who spoke Tuesday night live near the proposed development and opposed the plan.

They said adding a gas station to the town’s entrance would hurt property values, increase traffic, attract crime and create an eyesore.

“Gas stations are not what you want at the primary point of entrance into your city,” said resident Antoinette Woods.

Maureen Kroll, wife of the late Dr. William Monsour, co-founder and onetime CEO of the recently demolished medical center, said the site deserves a more prestigious occupant.

“There have to be other things out there that could bring some money into the town, but could be beautiful, and could say, ‘We’ve got some class; we’ve got some stature in this town,’ ” she said.

Several residents mentioned the Allegheny Health Network “micro-hospital” that was recently approved in nearby Hempfield, and asked why Jeannette could not have attracted a project like it.

“They get (AHN); we’re going to get a gas pump,” Antoniak said.

Tarosky fielded questions and defended the project.

He said the property is too small for a hospital like the one Allegheny Health Network is proposing. He said his decision to build a gas station was based on extensive research.

“This isn’t closing my eyes and throwing darts at a dartboard,” he said. “There are several indicators that I use. Sustainable success is what’s important here.”

He said he could not talk about who other tenants at the property might be, but he said he was in talks with “a top 5 grocer in the world.”

Marco Sylvania, a lawyer with Bonini and Co. representing the Westmoreland County Land Bank, also spoke to defended the project.

The land bank owns the property and has an agreement to sell it to Colony.

“The more we’re restricting development,” he said, “the harder it will be to attract developments in the future.”

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The final vote was the same as last week’s 3-2 preliminary vote, with council members Ron Smith and Robin Mozley opposing the zoning change.

The zoning change opens up the possibility for a gas station at the site, but Colony will still need to go through the typical zoning process before construction can begin, said City Manager Michael Nestico.

Several attendees called out “shame on you” after the vote.

Mayor Richard Jacobelli said the project will be the precursor to positive change in Jeannette.

“We in this town have been waiting so long for some change,” he said. “No matter how it looks at first, it will turn into something better than just a gas station.”

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.