By Jamie Wiggan
Responding to a series of resident complaints over rock piles amassed at a construction site near a residential neighborhood, Rick Urbano, planning director, advised commissioners to address the concerns in a written statement.
“Every question, we’ll get it in writing, with the solicitor and the board of commissioners’ approval,” Urbano said during the township’s March 1 business meeting. “Everyone will have all the correct answers and we’ll put it to bed.”
Prior to Urbano’s statement, residents laid out a list of questions relating to the construction site at the intersection of Waterford and Steubenville Pike, a topic that also dominated public comments during the board’s Feb. 1 meeting.
Complaining that the site – stalled by legal disputes between the township and a private property owner – poses a safety threat and mars the neighborhood’s appearance, residents are asking for the township to intervene and questioning its involvement in the disputed construction plans.
After first raising the issue Feb. 1, resident John Richnavsky returned the following month saying he didn’t receive satisfactory answers.
When he returned in March, Richnavsky asked to see documentation of the site plan approval, and requested answers as to the township’s right to pursue eminent domain, apparent conflicts of interest involving the construction site’s owner and his role on the township’s planning commission and whether the site violates a township ordinance governing “property maintenance.”
Adding to Urbano’s assignment, another resident, Brian Fleck, questioned whether the site would be classified as a “contractor’s yard” under Robinson’s zoning laws, which are prohibited in commercially-zoned portions of the township.
Promising to address all the concerns, Urbano said affected residents would receive letters prior to the April 5 scheduled meeting.
Also during the March 1 meeting, commissioner’s President Sam Abatta said the township will conduct a feasibility study to explore offering a virtual meeting option for public participation, following appeals to do so from a resident.
“We realize this is a way which we’re going into the 21st century,” Abatta said. “…We want to be transparent with everybody.”
Prior to Abatta’s comments, another resident told commissioners many don’t subscribe to cable packages, limiting them to attending in-person at risk of transmitting the coronavirus or missing public meetings altogether. Robinson televises meetings on a local digital channel.
“I don’t want to be here,” he said. “…These people are not six feet apart.”
Citing last year’s swimming pool closure and the cancelation of several public events throughout the year under the banner of safety, he said officials were acting hypocritically by failing to take similar precautions with public meetings.
“I have been calling for ten months, asking about ‘please add a webinar link,’” he said. “…America has switched to this, it’s the mode of access.”
Following the pandemic’s onset in March 2020, Robinson officials initially conducted business through virtual-only meetings without providing a public call-in option.
During summer, residents were readmitted to the building with social distancing regulation in place.
Meetings could be viewed on the local digital cable channel throughout.