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Letter: Rezoning the Moon Walmart Property?

A Moon resident writes that a mixed-use development would have been a better fit for the property at University Boulevard and Brodhead Road, where developers plan to construct a Walmart superstore.

To The Entire Board Of Supervisors Of Moon Township,

It has been nearly a year since I sent you this letter that was sent to the Board of Supervisors in response to the Comprehensive Planning meeting of May 9, 2012. A full year has passed for the board to act and rezone the property that Walmart Corporation owns and has been unable to develop as a result of MoonFirst’s actions.

MoonFirst is a community group that has resisted the idea of a big box development with a single use located in the heart of Moon Township. MoonFirst has pressed the Board of Supervisors to move ahead and rezone that property in case Walmart decides to sell their property or abandon their current development plan and propose a distribution warehouse, with continuous day and night tractor trailer traffic, in the heart of Moon Township.

The city of Pittsburgh is developing such mixed-use projects all throughout the East End corridor. Penn Ave. all around the old Nabisco factory and now the old Reisenstein Middle School are either demolished or redeveloped into mixed-use project and thriving.

Residential and commercial and retail are all combined with these projects. Google, hotels, and retail are all working together. Reisenstein Middle School is now gone and a mixed-use development project will be built with condo living surrounded by retail and flex use commercial.

 

For more on the Moon Township Walmart development, visit our Patch topics page.


Moon Township has its head in the sand as the City of Pittsburgh, and other communities see the future of development, and it does not include big box stores, or warehouses in the heart of their communities.

The Board of Supervisors has wasted an entire year avoiding this rezoning necessity. We do not have time to waste anymore. Rezoning takes time, and time already has been wasted!

Below is the original letter sent to you regarding a move to rezone the property to mixed-use, with a vision in mind that would enhance the town center vision, and the overall quality of life for Moon Township.

Original letter: 

I attended the Comprehensive Planning meeting on May 9, 2012, and presented a serious concern I had to those attending. What is of serious importance is the Walmart property. There are rumors, and some being very credible, that Walmart may not be building a superstore, or any store, on the property.

 At this time, they have not obtained their desired HOP (editor's note: Highway Occupancy Permit) from PennDOT. There are, no doubt, troubling issues regarding the Beaver Grade/Brodhead rds., and University Blvd. intersection.

If Walmart fails to obtain an HOP, and decides to abandon a building project, the township must change the zoning on that property to limit the size of box stores to one that is no bigger than, for example, Bottom Dollar grocery stores, and place the property under the 2000 Comprehensive Plan’s Overlay District. In addition, the zoning designation could be labeled as mixed residential/commercial use.

 The township officials failed to do this prior to the sale of the nearly foreclosed property that Walmart bought on-the-cheap. THE CHANGES MUST BE DONE NOW!

The township officials, and many, many citizens worked very hard on the 2000 Comprehensive Plan and had a vision of a town center concept for the community. This concept never developed because of failed vision. Today we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves and put this vision back where it belongs—front and center.

Such a fulfilled concept would enhance our township, as well as our largest business entity—Robert Morris University.

It is my vision that the township creates a land use authority in order to buy the Walmart property by floating a bond. We purchase the property, and partner with a developer, who could design a town center on that property, as well as with Parkhurst Dining Corporation and RMU.

The design could have a small covered stage for performances in the center, with benches, trees, and other plantings lined with parking all along the center circle in both directions. The buildings could be built in a horseshoe like manner around the center park setting.

The building would be mixed use with commercial on the first floor, and efficiency apartments on the second floor. Such an accommodation could benefit the senior citizen rental needs, as well as single people just starting out as they graduate RMU students or those in the work force.

The first floor could be small retail store configurations, offices, and flex-space configurations for R and D type needs. Robert Morris University might be able to entice R&D to locate into such a space if they have private sector partners who might want to locate close to the university, such as Google, and IBM, and the defense department have done with CMU in the city of Pittsburgh.

 Also in my vision, I see an RMU-type food court located in the first floor configuration to support the needs of the many people who could actually walk to such a restaurant from the surrounding area.  This could be an opportunity for the Eat N’ Park parent corporation—Parkhurst Dining Corporation, to use that location as a residential pilot project, as well.

There is a strong need for senior independent living in Moon Township, and by building efficiency apartments along the top floor of a first floor commercial project, we could begin to solve that concern. In addition, a food court of such quality could be an opportunity for seniors to eat healthy for a reasonable cost.

I want to remind everyone that the township can create a land-use authority. The township created an authority to buy and manage a golf course, which was purchased from the Heinlein family.

The township could create a mixed use development that would finally bring a town center to the community adding a new dimension to what is now a pass-through corridor and community. Such a development would also create the atmosphere of a university town, which would only enhance the area outside the beautiful campus of Robert Morris University. The thousands of students that live on campus would have the chance to enjoy a town center they could walk to, shop, and eat in their free time. An open WiFi system would also be created with park benches, grass, trees, flowers and shrubs.

Instead of sinking new dollars into the existing Moon Township library, the library could be relocated to this plaza meeting their specific needs. Also, the MCA-TV studio could be relocated to this plaza, as well. The new studio could be designed specifically for the growing needs of this community, and region.

I fully encourage our officials to not waste a minute on this major concern. WE MUST move forward on changing the zoning, creating a mixed use designation for the property, limiting the box store footprint size, and placing the site directly into the overlay district.

Then, I encourage the township to move forward to buy this property. This chance is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make right the mistakes of the past.

Thank you for the opportunity to state my opinions and submit for the record this incredible need that would only improve the quality of life for those living and working in Moon Township.

 

—Jerry Pearl, Moon Township. 

 

 

 

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What do you think? Is Walmart a good fit for Moon Township. 

BMM March 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM
What Mr. Pearl fails to note is that MoonFirst is an entity that is funded by Walmart competitors. This organization acts in a shroud of mystery acting as if they represent the interest of Moon residents when in fact they do not. They have no officers, no public meetings, nor any way to contact them. Mr. Pearl fails to realize that it is his beligerent efforts (and those of his corporate sponsors, such as Giant Eagle) that have contributed to the blight in our township.
clearfield March 26, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Let us look at the blight of the township. As we have seen long before MoonFirst became an organization resisting a big box store located in the center of the community, we saw a lumber yard leave Moon-empty. We saw a motor lodge fall into serious disrepair-eyesore. And, those are just two examples. When Moon Plaza fell into disrepair and into bankruptcy, that was a result of a business person's inability to keep up with his own property. MoonFirst is funded by those who are concerned over a big box store trying to fit into a small space in the heart of the community, which will be plagued by serious traffic problems, when there are more appropriate locations for such a development. "Belligerent efforts"? So BMM believes that citizens should sit back and accept whatever problems, occurrences, corporate predators, laws, ordinances come their way!! I guess he hates those who lobby their government in support or against specific laws and decisions are made, too. Sadly, that is NOT the American Way! The Constitution allows for it! If BMM is so in support of Wal-Wart, then form your own group instead of complaining about it.
BMM March 26, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Mr. Clearfield again in typical fashion muddies the issue by bloveating and pivoting off subject. This is a tactic he learned by his handlers who fight Walmart through "community organizations." It is simple....if MoonFirst claims to be a community organization, then they should be transparent in who they are and how they are funded. Before you claim to represent my community, I should know who you are. It is that simple and I think it is a fair point. Oh and the reason for the other eyesores? It can be tied back to MoonFirst. Thanks to your efforts, businesses think twice before coming here because of the hassles. MoonFirst's belligerent efforts have contributed to a hostile business enviornment. This reduces services and reduces our tax base. Thanks alot MoonFirst for your "community service". We can all now pay higher taxes, and burn more gas to go buy sundries and pay higher food prices due to a lack of competition.
clearfield March 26, 2013 at 04:39 PM
WOW! Businesses think twice before coming to Moon. Your statement is totally NOT based in fact. As it appears, we are seeing business expansion in Moon. We are seeing the business tax base expanded, in spite of the efforts by MoonFirst to prevent a big box store from occupying the center of the township. "Pivoting off subject"? Discussing what the township was experiencing in regards to blighted commercial sites is totally relevant to the subject. Moon was seeing a commercial economic down turn for several years. Now, it is seeing a growth in commercial and residential development and that is in spite of the empty Wal-Mart site. More hyperbole by BMM blaming a small community action group for the eyesores of MoonFirst. Very funny!!!! How about blaming a comprehensive and cohesive vision for the center of the community. How about a comprehensive plan and overlay district plan that does not have teeth. How about the decision makers of the township ignoring their own vision for the township by not including the Wal-Mart site into their overlay district plan, which included a Town Center concept. " MoonFirst's belligerent efforts have contributed to a hostile business environment" is just another baseless statement as are the other statements you wrote. As business is expanding in Moon, it is clear that MoonFirst has had no influence whatsoever with this growth. If anything, these small business owners see MoonFirst as a supporter of small business.
BMM March 26, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Folks, notice no denial about being supported by Walmart competitors, nor any information as to who they are. And to boot, an arrogant statement by Clearfield attacking our duly elected Moon Board of Supervisors......heck, why do we need them when we have MoonFirst!
Dr Gonzo March 26, 2013 at 05:33 PM
In light of UsAir packing up shop and skipping town, should we be turning away any legitimate business that wants to move into the township? We welcome the porn store and head shop with open arms, but turn away walmart?
Coleen Wheeler March 26, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Not to get into the private argument between BMM and Clearfield, but I agree wholeheartedly that a mixed use town center would be a much better use of the property than Walmart. We don't need a Walmart and the intersection in question will not support the increased traffic such a store would attract. It would simply be replacing one eyesore for another and one I would never use ( I am morally opposed to Walmart's employment practices). South Fayette Township is in the process of developing a mixed use area at the site of an old mill and it would behoove our Township supervisors to study what SF is doing and consider the same.
clearfield March 27, 2013 at 12:37 AM
BMM--you continue to write without fact, and now, you have embarrassed yourself by saying I am " attacking our duly elected Moon Board of Supervisors", which apparently means that one should not be critical of our political and elected officials. Yet, you feel it is OK to be critical of citizens who speak up and become active in one's own community. You are very funny. You are never critical of politicians? More funny! To focus back on the topic Jerry wrote in the letter above, which would allow Moon officials a second chance to reconfigure a large parcel in the heart of the township if for some reason Walmart chooses not build but to, instead, sell. And, if Walmart abandons its big box store in favor of a distribution center, ie., a super giant warehouse, then they would have to resubmit a brand new plan to the township. Rezoning could reject such a plan--a giant all night warehouse--in the heart of Moon when the airport corridor provides for such a facility. It appears MoonFirst's actions have provided the township a grand opportunity to rezone the Walmart property into a "mixed use" designation, which would entice small businesses, small R and D tech start-ups, green space, restaurants/cafeterias, and housing all existing together on one large footprint. This vision would only create a better and more attractive Moon Township. THIS would attract more business than a super sized Walmart.
clearfield March 27, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Sadly, a porn store or head shop did not require an HOP from Penn-Dot. All it required was a lease. Our zoning ordinances have not been written to reject such retail establishments. Moon Supervisors must make zoning and ordinance recommendations to restrict such places from moving into Moon. They have not done that, thus far. Talk to them about it. It has nothing to do with MoonFirst's opposition to a big box store that has not received approval for their traffic plan or their HOP from Penn-Dot. If Penn-Dot approves their HOP and traffic plan, then they will build their super store, which will please you and BMM. So far, it has not been approved. Remember, in regards to USAir or other businesses---nothing is forever! If you believe something is for certain and you know it to be certain, all I have to is wait and your certainty might become an uncertainty. Change is the only constant here.
BMM March 27, 2013 at 01:57 AM
I'm glad you find humor in what you think are invalid points just as one citizen has exposed you for who your organization really is. All you have done is futher damaged my community in your blind rage against a store. Get a life.
clearfield March 27, 2013 at 04:22 AM
BMM--I have a life and it is terrific! I don't feel any rage. The rage that is clearly heard is coming from you through your words. The problem is that I continue to make valid points by pointing out facts and examples, yet you have failed to point out one fact. Your rage has gotten the better of you. Just because I know the facts and details, you now have exposed me. Very funny!!!!!!! It is sad that people get angry at others who are informed, and know the facts. Because they cannot speak about facts themselves. All they can to do are to make accusations and vilify others form being informed citizens. What needs to be done on this thread is to stick to the topic. Discuss the topic and the points outlined by the author of this letter. To avoid doing so is to grandstand without direction.
clearfield March 27, 2013 at 03:31 PM
More facts about big box stores. Question to Moon Residents: If Wal-Mart builds a super sized store and then, after a few years closes it and no other retailer rents it, what would that look like in the center of the township? BLIGHT and DECAY comes to mind. From Washingtonsblog.com: "There are 1,300 regional malls in this country, with most anchored by a JC Penney, Sears, Barnes & Noble, or Best Buy. The combination of declining real household income, aging population, lackluster employment growth, rising energy, food and healthcare costs, mounting tax burdens, and escalating on-line purchasing will result in the creation of 200 or more ghost malls over the next five years. The closure of thousands of big box stores is baked in the cake." "The American people have run out of money. They have no equity left in their houses to tap. The average worker has only $25,000 of retirement savings and they are taking loans against it to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. They can’t afford to perform normal maintenance on their property and are one emergency away from bankruptcy."
clearfield March 27, 2013 at 03:32 PM
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/available.html This is the source of the above snippet.
Moon Res March 27, 2013 at 08:05 PM
When did Jerry Pearl and Clearfield become the mouth piece of Moon Twp.? Look at all the businesses that have closed up shop and left only to remain abandoned. Nobody wants to start up in Moon due to the overly restrictive requirments of the Overlay District. People this is not Sewickley, we are not the quaint little town. It was asked what would happen down the road if Walmart would close down in a couple of years and leave the property what would it look like. It would look like Kmart. No matter what is built there it will increase traffic. Remember folks it was once a shopping center with 2 grocery stores and a number of other stores. Now look at it, it is an eye sore. This is all about the Walmart haters. If you don't like Walmart fine don't shop there. Maybe there won't be so much traffic.
M March 31, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Oh, contraire, Mr. Pearl's letter is articulate, well reasoned and specific, offering well thought out options for the land use that are far superior to another WalMart when another is in place 10 minutes from the proposed Moon location . Though I am not a member of MoonFirst, he speaks for me. His letter clearly sees the impact WalMart could/probably would have on Moon life and culture, given it's track record of poor citizenships, poor management of its employees, anti union union busting, keeping people in low paying part time jobs instead of hiring full time people and paying them a living wage. I have watched this with disgust for years. I have followed Mr. Pearl's active citizenship for a couple of decades now and commend him for it. While I don't always agree with his position, I support his right to attend meetings and speak. Please know and believe he may not speak for all residents, but he does for many. There is, in fact, little to no blight in the township as far as I am aware. Even Mooncrest has made some strides to being a decent place to live and take advantage of the superior education provided by Moon Schools. It is you, sir, whose evident small mindedness
M March 31, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Well said! We need more, not less of this involved citizenry!!
M March 31, 2013 at 11:31 PM
You exaggerate, "muddy the issue", bloveate and pivot. I take exception. What has happened in Moon has first been ameliorated by Marv Eicher's position on the planning board as pretty much the only one willing to ask hard questions of the Wal Mart folks (I watched way too many of those meetings at odd hours!) and require specific answers, to question numbers and how they were calculated. WalMart brought some pretty high powered and I assume high paid representatives to press its case. Moon never needed a WalMart. The township has a sad history of transportation issues making it so not the place we moved to in 1985 for its small town ambience. I watched Moon lean over and grab ankles for too many businesses. Under Marv's leadership, businesses did need to think twice before coming here, not because of the hassles, but because they'd be expected/required to be good citizens, not greedy users of the township's resources.
M March 31, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Did not USAir pack up and skip town once before, leaving McCormick not returned to its original configuration as they had promised and contracted??? I never did understand why they were seemingly welcomed back with open arms and no mention of or consequence from their default. A bill for the work done by taxpayers would have been appropriate imho. I did not and would not welcome a porn store or head shop and have too much personal experience with my son's position at WalMart as an employee for several years to patronize it. Sometimes you get what you pay for. After several years there as part time employee, my son became full time when someone didn't pay enough attention and he was automatically upgraded. There followed several years of frustration dealing with incompetent management who couldn't seem to comply with scheduling due to health needs nor follow their own procedures for workers. Not pretty, people, not something I would wish on any Moon residents.
M March 31, 2013 at 11:43 PM
True, but some of those commissioners seem to be in bed with the wrong folk and should be educated and replaced asap. Think before you vote, my fellow Moon residents. Mixed use seems to me far superior to anything in second place.
M April 01, 2013 at 12:23 AM
We (if I may speak for others) are not WalMart haters. We don't shop there as a moral imperative, in solidarity with the victimized (yes, I know they're still better off than the lowest of the rest of the world, but this is the USA, land of the free, home of the brave, where we believe, at least in theory, that all, especially here, are created equal and entitled to an equitable choice of a good job at a reasonable wage. We need to live simply here, so that others may simply live.) We are people who don't accept seeing employees victimized, overseas slave wages for substandard goods on sale here, greed to the nth degree. Please don't reduce us to haters. By the way, do you know anyone who works at WalMart and like(s/d) it? felt respected, valued for the labor they produce, didn't think it was wrong to buy cheap goods they know were produced by people who could never dream of affording them themselves?? Is that worthy of the greatest (if flawed) country in the world???? and was not a manager making way too much money for too many mistakes??????

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