Mining at former Mayview site denied

Published Dec 10, 2013 at 9:13 am (Updated Dec 10, 2013 at 9:13 am)

A request by Aloe Brothers, LLC to mine coal at the site of the former Mayview State Hospital in South Fayette Township was denied by the township’s three-member zoning hearing board.

The vote was 1-1 with Fred Cardillo voting to approve the special exception to allow mining and Mike Iagnemma voting to deny. Prior to the vote, John Alan Kosky, zoning hearing board president recused himself and did not vote. The 1-1 tie resulted in denial of Aloe Brothers’ application.

In September, Aloe Brothers requested a special exception to allow mining at the site and also challenged the validity of a section of the township’s zoning ordinance for B-1 (business) districts. The validity challenge was also denied by the zoning hearing board.

Aloe Brothers, which purchased the property along Mayview Road in 2010 for $505,505, had wanted to mine coal on about 37 acres of the property. Based upon sampling conducted at the site, it is estimated there is about 330,000 tons of coal that could have been mined.

Before the 1-1 tie, Cardillo made several motions to approve Aloe Brothers request to mine coal, which included restrictions on the times in which coal could be extracted and blasting could have occurred.

Cardillo also said that prior to Aloe Brothers’ purchasing the property, there was a task force in charge of finding a buyer for it. Cardillo pointed out the task force included several state representatives, as well as former South Fayette Township Manager Mike Hoy and current South Fayette Board of Commissioners President Deron Gabriel.

Cardillo added that the two bidders for the property “both had intentions of mining coal.”

“Everyone involved in the process along with all the members of the Mayview Task Force understood the intension of these companies to mine this coal,” Cardillo said.

Prior to recusing himself from the vote, Kosky said that at the Sept. 25 zoning hearing board meeting, Township Solicitor Jonathan Kamin requested he recuse himself “because I would allegedly be biased due to pending legal action I and others have against the township unrelated to the present Aloe case.”

Kosky, who has served on the zoning hearing board for 18 years, is among the members listed in a suit against the township regarding its comprehensive plan. He and Cuddy Partners, LP, along with Range Resources, are also involved in a substantive validity challenge to the township’s oil and gas zoning ordinance regarding a 400 acre piece of property along Cecil-Sturgeon Road. A hearing on that matter will take place next month.

Kosky said during his tenure on the board he has heard and rendered decisions in more than 100 cases.

“Mr. Kamin’s accusations that I could not do so here because of litigation completely unrelated to this case are without merit and personally insulting. I question his motives,” Kosky read in a prepared statement. However, Kosky added he recused himself so that “no question can be raised regarding my alleged bias.”

After the meeting, Kosky said the fact that he recused himself was “totally unrelated” to any pending litigation with the township, adding he has always “looked out for the goodwill of the township.”

Aloe Brothers has 30 days from receipt of the zoning hearing board’s written decision to file an appeal.

“I’m going to recommend we appeal,” said William Sittig, attorney for Aloe Brothers.

“If a comparable use is allowed, it’s not really that complicated,” Sittig said of oil and gas being permitted as a conditional use in the B-1 district although mining is not.

The Dec. 9 meeting was the last for zoning hearing board members Cardillo and Kosky, who were not reappointed to another term. Joseph Gagliardino and Renee Bennett were appointed and will take their seats on the board in January.

The zoning hearing board will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at the South Fayette Middle School auditorium to hear testimony on the substantive validity challenge from applicants Cuddy Partners and Range Resources. Testimony on the matter is scheduled to continue at 7 p.m. Jan. 14.

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