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Store plan draws ire

By Richard Byrne Reilly
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Angered by a developer and the city’s planning process, people fighting a proposed drive-through for a Walgreens drug store in Point Breeze plan to attend a special City Council meeting Wednesday.
Their opposition centers on the fact that the two-lane, 24-hour drive-through for the Penn Avenue store would eliminate three Victorian homes in the neighborhood’s Park Place section.

“Number one, the drive-through is not necessary. And two, we fear the loss of the residential properties will be a serious detriment to the neighborhood,” said John Mayberry, president of the Greater Park Place Neighborhood Association.

Council will hold a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. and will vote next month whether to approve zoning that would allow the store to be built. The Planning Commission has recommended the rezoning.

Opponents also are riled about planning commissioner Todd E. Reidbord’s role in the process.

Reidbord is president of Walnut Capital, a Shadyside investment company that previously developed a property that had Walgreens as its anchor tenant, raising concerns about conflict of interest, said Arnold Horovitz, an attorney representing Mayberry’s civic group. Reidbord did not disclose his previous affiliation with the drug-store chain when the Planning Commission considered the plan, and he shouted down and cut short residents when they tried to voice their opposition, said Horovitz and others who attended the meeting. Reidbord voted to recommend rezoning April 4, when the commission backed the move 7-1.

“Our real problem was his attitude at the previous meeting when he tried to stop opponents from speaking,” Horovitz said. “It was an aggressive effort to control the meeting because opponents couldn’t make their case.”

Reidbord did not return calls for comment.

City Planning Director Patrick Ford deemed the concerns regarding Reidbord valid.

“The community is correct. (Reidbord) should have recused himself and disclosed the conflict,” Ford said, referring to Reidbord’s company.

Ford said the conflict-of-interest issue would be discussed at Wednesday’s hearing and that “a number of residents” complained about Reidbord’s behavior in the meeting.

City planning staffers recommended approving the zoning change to the Planning Commission, Ford said.

Park Place resident Jim Hart said the integrity of the neighborhood would be affected if the three antique homes are torn down.

“We have to take a stand now, before it’s too late,” Hart said.

Richard Byrne Reilly can be reached at or (412) 380-5625.

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