Although Mt. Lebanon's newly planned and approximately 23-acre-large "McNeilly Park" athletics complex will include "less than probably even a quarter of an acre" of Baldwin Township land—according to Mt. Lebanon's Municipal Planner Keith McGill—some Baldwin Township officials and other area municipal leaders have still expressed concern over how the park will affect non-Mt. Lebanonites.
Baldwin Township, as well as Dormont Borough and Pittsburgh's Brookline neighborhood, will closely or directly border the new complex, which will consist of soccer and baseball fields and will sit on now-wooded Mt. Lebanon property between Queensboro Avenue and McNeilly Road.
The biggest concerns, at least for Baldwin Township engineer Glenn Jonnet, will be increased noise, lighting and traffic, as well as potential issues with municipal utility pipes and a Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority overflow chamber that surrounding municipalities share and that will exist beneath the new complex.
"They're going to be up against the residences," Jonnet said after a Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners meeting on Oct. 4. "Those nice woods that have been calm for 30 years now will have kids right there playing soccer, yelling and screaming. And you'll have lights at night."
Mt. Lebanon officials are considering establishing an entrance roadway to the proposed complex at or near the intersection of McNeilly and Pearce roads. Pearce leads into Baldwin Township's parts of Pearce and Dewalt Drive soon after that intersection, meaning increased traffic for Baldwin Township residents, as well.
"There's a lot of activity that goes on there (the McNeilly-Pearce intersection)," Jonnet said. "You've got gas stations and other commercial property (surrounding it). And residential (nearby)."
While structures and activities on the grounds of the proposed athletics complex will have to comply with Mt. Lebanon's municipal code, Baldwin Township officials will have little control of the complex despite its proximity to their constituents, especially those along Hill Street and Highridge Drive.
"We have our ordinances, and they have their ordinances," Jonnet said. "They have to abide by their ordinances; they don't have to abide by ours."
"In regard to potential problems at the McNeilly fields," the report reads, "Chief O'Brien noted that we (Mt. Lebanon police) would be likely to see thefts from vehicles in the parking lots, criminal mischief to buildings, vending machines, and of course, graffiti."
O'Brien also echoed Jonnet's concerns over traffic.
"(O'Brien) related that he often fields citizen complaints in regard to access to McNeilly Road during the morning rush hour; motorists are unable to merge onto McNeilly Road from Pierce (sic), directly across from the proposed development," the Oct. 6 report reads. "Chief O'Brien also indicated that the afternoon rush hour (2 to 6 p.m.) involves fairly heavy traffic along McNeilly Road, including school bus traffic, and that after school athletic events could increase backlogs along McNeilly as parents, students and spectators attempt to cross traffic to enter the field complex."
Lieutenant Joe Tersak, the officer in charge of the traffic unit for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Zone 6, which has jurisdiction over Brookline, was also referenced in the Oct. 6 report.
"From the traffic perspective," the report reads, "Lt. Tersak expressed his opinion that (Mt. Lebanon municipal) planners should pay particular attention to ensuring there will be an adequate number of parking spots within the complex to avoid issues arising from overflow parking onto the McNeilly roadway. Lt. Tersak also noted that many potential issues were dependent upon who would be permitted to use the fields; certain high school rivalries, for example, might necessitate additional police officers' presence to deter any potential fights or disorder."
While any activity that occurs at McNeilly Park would be under the jurisdiction of Mt. Lebanon police, police from Pittsburgh, Baldwin Township or Dormont could be called on to help.
"In regard to the authority of the Baldwin, Dormont or City of Pittsburgh (or any other municipal police agency) police to come to the aid or assistance of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department at McNeilly Road or any other location, the MLPD need only request that assistance," the Oct. 6 report reads. " ... In fact, in the absence of such a request, the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act also grants jurisdiction if an officer from an 'outside' agency has probable cause to believe another 'officer is in need of aid or assistance.'"
Included in the Oct. 6 report is a Sept. 22 letter from Mt. Lebanon police officer Scott M. Kunz to Mt. Lebanon police Chief Coleman J. McDonough that echoes the possibility of other municipalities' police departments entering McNeilly Park.
"There will be an increase in the (police) calls for service at the proposed McNeilly Road park," Kunz's letter reads, "because at this time, the facility does not exist. However, I do not anticipate that number to be significant. I believe these calls will include criminal mischief (to the pavilions, dugouts, concession stand, etc.), theft (from vehicles in the parking lot, concession stand, vending machines), ordinance violations (alcohol in the park, being in the park after hours), disturbance/noise complaints, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct/fighting and the use and sale of drugs. I also see the potential for other activities to occur because of the seclusion of the park such as sexual activities, underage drinking and drug use.
"Another concern is the location of the park. The park will be located on the far edge of town which will mean an increase in response times. This may cause us to have to rely on the Dormont and Baldwin Township police departments for quick assistance."
Keystone Oaks High Principal Scott Hagy and Seton-La Salle President Gary Rodgers were both interviewed for the Oct. 6 report, but neither had concerns over the proposed McNeilly Park.
"Mr. Hagy expressed no concerns in regard to criminal activities or traffic at the proposed McNeilly fields development," the report reads. "Gary Rodgers indicated that since most activities at the fields would occur after school, on weekends or during the summer months, he did not anticipate any traffic problems affecting the school. Mr. Rodgers viewed the proposed development as a 'positive for the community.' He did not see any reason for concern in regard to increased criminal activity."
Under a 2002 Mutual Aid Agreement that includes Mt. Lebanon, Dormont and Baldwin Township, among others, the financial expenses incurred by a police department while helping another police department are the responsibilty of that helping department only. In other words, Baldwin Township or Dormont police would not, under normal circumstances, be reimbursed by Mt. Lebanon police if they were called on to help Mt. Lebanon. Pittsburgh Police are not included in that agreement, though.
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates on McNeilly Park.