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.
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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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