By Katherine Porter
Ridgway, Pa, – On Tuesday evening, Gary Thorp, professional land surveyor for TREK Development Group, provided Ridgway Borough Council members as well as area residents with information concerning the proposed subdivision behind Ridgmont Personal Care Home, located along Montmorenci Road.
The project, recently approved by the Ridgway Township Zoning Hearing Board, is set to begin construction in late April to early May and be completed within a 10- to 12-month time frame. WRC Senior Services is seeking to subdivide their property in order to create a space for the proposed senior living village. WRC, who also operate Ridgmont, will manage the facility in conjunction with TREK Development Group, who has been in control of the planning stage of the project.
"What I'm asking for [Tuesday] is just to accept the plan as it is going to be presented. My job is to create the subdivision line between WRC and the new development area," Thorpe said. "Everything seems to be in good order and good shape as far as holding the ordinances, the subdivision ordinances, and that's what we're trying to achieve."
The borough is currently in the process of approving the subdivision line for the property. The borough planning commission consists of council president Ralph Dussia, council members Steve Keener and Sam MacDonald, and Mayor Dr. Guillermo Udarbe.
The commission, briefed by Thorp, has yet to make a decision but is planning to meet with borough solicitor David Pontzer in order to help to address concerns from residents in the surrounding area of the development, including those on Cottage Lane, North Maple Street and Dewey Street.
The Township Zoning Hearing Board approved the development pending several stipulations, including the planting of a screen of vegetation that will grow to no less than 8 feet high as well as a stipulation that North Maple Street not be used by construction and maintenance vehicles to enter and exit the site.
However, some were concerned that while construction vehicles may not enter the site through North Maple, that once the structure is complete, the street would still be used as an entrance.
"Those negotiations are still in progress," Thorpe said as the entrance would cross through private property.
"What Gary is saying is right," said Trey Barber, also from TREK Development Group. "Ideally for a lot of reasons we would like this. One reason is emergency services, one of them is ease of access, and one of them is, and maybe we've thought wrong, is connecting the community would be an important thing to do – allowing a mix of generations and a mix of incomes. We look at that as good public policy; obviously, it's not being looked at that way here. We would like to have that connection there."
Barber has been in contact with the current property owners who have not yet responded to the offer.
Others expressed their concern that, like the high-rise located in the borough, the requirement that residents be 62 years of age or over, would be changed in the future to allow people of all ages to live in the new development in order to boost numbers.
Barber addressed the issue by saying the requirement is part of the deed and could not be changed no matter what the circumstances.
"That age restriction will be a deed restriction on the property, so when the property is transferred over there will actually be a restriction in the deed saying that this property will be used for people who are only 62 and above. If that becomes in violation then we are in violation in all of our funding; everything that we work with with the banks, then all of that stuff starts to crumble down. So it's in our best interest and we've been doing this for 20-plus years and we've never had a violation." Barber said.
Barber also added that thorough background checks as well as credit checks would be performed on those seeking to live in the development. He also stated that TREK manages over 3,000 properties in western Pennsylvania and takes property management as their top priority.
Some North Maple residents also took issue with the dumpsters for the facility being placed on the area of the property bordering their yards.
"I'm sure it has something to do with the runoff of the storm water, there's also an availability of space there as opposed to up by the pond," Barber said.
"That's right in our backyard," said North Maple resident Tom Parker.
Mike Johnson, who also resides along North Maple agreed.
"It sounds like to me that there's been a lot of things that have had to happen here that are just kind of ridiculous to build something that's overly-expensive," he said. "This whole thing that has go on between North Central and Ridgmont, and setback lines, and this pond that has to be put in for taking care of water runoff – you leave us virtually nothing," Johnson said. "I even approached at the township meeting about moving it back a little bit so that we can leave a tree line there and leave it two separate communities. We're trying to work with you and all we got is 'We want to be good neighbors," which was stated by Barber at a prior meeting."
Others living in the area agreed with Johnson's idea of having the development set back several feet farther from the border of North Maple in order to have more space for trees.
The portion of the property that borders North Maple Street is bordered by privately-owned land, and as the proposed plans stand, leaves an approximate space of 3 to 4 feet for the required vegetative screen.
Councilman Ralph Dussia questioned Thorp on the feasibility of 8-foot high foliage growing in an area of that size.
"I don't see how you're going to plant trees 8 feet high in a 3 foot space," Dussia said. "I'm going to go back to our solicitor and talk to him about this and see what he recommends because I don't see that, Gary, I really don't. I don't see why you couldn't move that to make the pond a little smaller on the other end and shift it that way just a few feet."
"Bottom line is I'm asking the board most definitely to take consideration of the subdivision plan in order to get it approved then everything else will be handled, of course, by Ridgway Township because everything else will be in the township itself," Thorpe said. "We've met all the criteria as far as the subdivision and the zoning ordinance of the Ridgway Borough and that's what we're trying to achieve [Tuesday] is to at least get the approval or pass it on to the council for their final approval on the subdivision itself."
The planning commission will be meeting with Pontzer in the near future in order to get some direction on their pending decision for the subdivision.