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Baldwin Council Mulling Ryan Homes Decision

A developer of north Baldwin homes wants an exception to be made.

Should some future properties in north Baldwin Borough be treated differently than developments in the rest of the borough are?

That is the question facing the Baldwin Council, and according to borough solicitor Stanley B. Lederman, the council has 45 days to answer it.

Representatives from Ryan Homes, a developer of residences in north Baldwin's Breckenridge Highlands complex, appeared in front of the council at a special meeting on Tuesday night to ask council members to make an exception to the amount of space required in the borough between a structure and the street that it sits along (known as "setback").

The impetus for the request is that Ryan Homes wishes to build "morning rooms" onto five future Breckenridge homes. The morning rooms are extra living spaces built onto residences' kitchens.

Ryan Homes hopes to lessen its required setback from 20 feet to 15 feet, but borough Manager John Barrett pointed out at an earlier council meeting that Ryan's 20-foot requirement is already down from an original 35-foot one.

Some council members expressed concern that 15 feet is too close to the street, especially if driveways and sidewalks get involved.

The borough's Planning Commission has rejected Ryan's request, but the council may overrule that rejection.

The five future Breckenridge homes would be built on Towervue Drive, according to Ryan Homes sales manager Amanda Anderle and Ryan Homes' engineer John Bollinger.

It would be difficult and expensive to add the morning rooms in the space moving away from the street, Bollinger and borough engineer Larry Souleret agreed, because there is a slope and utility line situated behind the potential homes in question. However, as council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk said, the utility line is a private one put there by the developer, and adjusting the slope—while costly—is still an option.

Anderle has pointed out that building homes with morning rooms would add to the overall size of those structures, meaning an increase in real estate tax revenue for the borough.

However, that argument appears to be not enough to sway the decision for Councilman John Ferris, who said, "We can't keep making exceptions."

Ferris' official vote on the matter, like his colleagues', will be made at a future time to be determined.

Ferris later added that, if the council continues to make exceptions to the borough's code (variances) for Ryan Homes, it would have a hard time enforcing its code in other places in the borough.

And Stelmasczyk pointed out that Ryan has had other variances before, such as an exception made to the amount of space between borough structures.

Stelmasczyk said that, before he feels comfortable making a decision, he would like to see an analysis done by Ryan Homes to show what would be required to adjust the slope and utility line in order to build away from the street instead.

Ketan and Bhuni Patel, first-time homebuyers, were also in attendance on Tuesday. The Patels are planning on moving into one of the five Towervue units in question and are hoping that the council approves Ryan's setback request so that they can have their morning room.

Ketan, who moved to the United States in 2011 and was joined by his wife, Bhuni, in Pittsburgh after she moved from New Jersey, said that he wants to live in north Baldwin being that it "is a nice, safe community" and is close to his place of work in Pittsburgh's South Side area.

"If nothing is damaged, why not move the home 5 feet forward and give some money (real estate taxes) to the borough?" Mr. Patel asked. "If I can't buy the home here, I'll buy the home somewhere else."

Added Anderle, "We are serving the market. A lot of people coming through the door do want a morning room. What we're trying to do is finish the community. Give the consumer what they're looking for."

Should an exception be made in this case? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below.

Click here for more Baldwin Borough news.

And check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Wednesday for more odds and ends from Tuesday night's council meetings.

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Sasafras Jackson January 16, 2013 at 07:52 PM
"I wonder if Ryan Homes knows they suck?" - Uncle Helix 2k13
Watcher January 16, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Wouldnt make A difference to me, but people should know that Ryan homes are junk. They use cheap materials, cheapest contractors possible, and give A lot of work to foreign workers. Never would catch me in one.
joe momma January 16, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Ehhh let them staple on an extra room people never use lol ridiculous...Can hear it already " Drunk driver drove thru a home owners morning room late last night in north baldwin"
NB resident January 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM
I think Borough Council has a fiduciary responsibility to make sure the rules are followed. If they continue to adjust the rules for Ryan Homes then why not the everyday joe who wants to do something on his house. Furthermore by allowing Ryan Homes to do this work they set a precedent that they will not be able to defend against. The rules are in place for a reason and they should be followed. Council should have never adjusted the rules in the first place. Council gave Ryan Homes an inch and now they want a mile. Lets be honest here, if Ryan homes builds these rooms they sell the house for more money its about profit, sure the borough may collect a few more tax dollars, but these rules are in place for safety and security and for peace. Otherwise it will look like the south side where you have houses inches away from the street basically built on top of each other. In short no Ryan homes should not be allowed to build these rooms, if they want to build them build them away from the street. If that cost more money then they should have thought about that in the original planning of the structures.
Robert Edward Healy, III February 20, 2013 at 08:53 PM
"Baldwin Council Denies Ryan Homes' Request": http://patch.com/A-2gdr

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