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Nonprofit developer suing Munhall council

Pittsburgh Post GazetteBy Jan Ackerman,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, March 29, 2007

A nonprofit organization that wants to build seven homes for low- and moderate-income families behind a historic Munhall library has stirred up bad feelings by suing Munhall council for rescinding project approvals.

Relations are so strained between Munhall and the Mon Valley Initiative that state Reps. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, issued a joint statement urging the parties to resolve their differences out of court.

The representatives are concerned that a government-funded nonprofit is suing one of the governments it is supposed to be helping.

“This lawsuit sends out a harmful message to Munhall and surrounding communities … .” said Mr. Gergely.

MVI filed suit against Munhall on Feb. 26, asking a judge to order the borough to approve the plan and allow construction to begin. The nonprofit organization contends that Munhall council violated the law by trying to add the property to a historic district after the subdivision plan had been approved.

Munhall Councilman Michael Terrick said council isn’t trying to stop the project.

“We are just asking them to meet historic district standards,” he said.

Stephani Greenleaf, spokeswoman for MVI, said the organization will not comment because of the litigation.

Last fall, Mon Valley Initiative, which builds “affordable housing” in Rankin, Braddock and Homestead, was seeking approvals to build seven homes on two-plus acres between 11th and 12th avenues, Louise and Andrew streets.

MVI planned four-bedroom, 21/2-bath, vinyl-sided homes with 1,860 square feet, front porches and garages. The homes would be priced at $130,000, but some would sell for less, depending on the buyers’ income.

Some neighbors of the property are unhappy with the proposal; they say it will destroy the area’s historic character.

By a 5-2 vote, council approved the subdivision plan Jan. 17. The meeting minutes said the planning commission OK’d it with the understanding that “the historic district status that is now in the process will apply to this development when it actually occurs.”

On Jan. 24, MVI applied for seven building permits.

At a special meeting Jan. 26, council voted to expand the boundaries of the historic district to include the MVI property. It also voted to rescind the approval of the subdivision.

According to MVI’s lawsuit, the borough received a legal opinion saying that it would violate the law if it tried to include the MVI property in the historic district after the subdivision had been approved.

The lawsuit is pending in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

(Jan Ackerman can be reached at or 412-851-1512. )

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633