Council rejects commercial offer for vacant lot
By Jamie Wiggan
An undeveloped residential land parcel that was on course to become a parking lot for a new business will instead become a green space maintained by a resident.
Hearing strong pushback over the original plans for the lot at 823 Short St., council voted to sell the property to nearby resident Martin Doyle for $1 plus associated legal costs during a special meeting Oct. 19.
Council President Archie Brinza said the decision was about putting the resident’s concerns over those of a private developer.
“Do we want a business there? I do, but not at the expense of the residents,” Brinza said, before the vote was cast.
The motion passed council with strong support, with Councilman Chas Maritz placing the sole opposition vote.
Before the roll call, several residents spoke out publicly in support of maintaining the lot as a community green space. The property was recently donated to the borough by a former resident who requested the borough find a way to use it for the benefit of local residents.
One resident, Maria McDonough said she had collected more than 90 signatures for a petition against selling the land to use for commercial parking.
Taking up the mantle for the wider group, Doyle of 824 Short St., offered to pay the asking price for the parcel.
“We don’t need a parking lot down there… it needs to be a residential green space,” Doyle said. “I’ll take care of it.”
The audience broke into applause after council approved the sale to Doyle. The agreement included a stipulation that the property must be maintained as green space in perpetuity to protect it from future development.
Ken Plumb, the businessman who sought to buy the triangular lot for $6,000 said he hoped to use it as a parking space for a hamburger restaurant he’s in the process of opening at 900 Island Ave. Above the restaurant, Plumb plans to operate a bed and breakfast business.
“Our intention is to take advantage of a billion-dollar stadium across the river, a half-million dollar casino across the river,” he said. “Our goal is to bring new tax revenue into McKees Rocks.”
Residents, along with some council members, voiced concerns the business would attract clientele from the two nearby adult nightclubs and could be misused for other forms of sexwork.
Plumb insisted he saw a business opportunity that would appeal to a pool of younger people who want to spend time in Pittsburgh on a low budget. He said it would be a safe and secure environment.
“This is not going to be a flop-house,” he said.
Brinza said the borough would stay in contact with Plumb to help him identify other potential property to use as parking space.