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Proposed Wal-Mart a source of controversy

Sunday, April 20, 2003

By Jan Ackerman, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

About 75 acres of the Dixmont State Hospital property in Kilbuck is under contract with ASC Development, an Emsworth development company that wants to build a $28 million Wal-Mart Supercenter on the property.

Ralph Stroyne, a Kilbuck construction contractor whose family partnership owns Dixmont State Hospital, stands next to a peeling mural in one of the hallways. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

Last May, Kilbuck commissioners approved the development, which they contend will bring new, much-needed tax revenues to their community.

But on June 3, 2002, Communities First!, a group of citizens from the area who don't want the Wal-Mart, appealed to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to overturn the township's rulings.

The citizens group, represented by attorney Victor R. Delle Donne, objected to the presence of a big-box retail development in the small municipalities along the Ohio River. The group contends that it will cause traffic congestion, negatively affect the environment and bring noise, crime, pollution, soil erosion, loss of prime green space and loss of wildlife.

Ralph Stroyne said their legal challenges are "frivolous." The Stroyne Family Partnership and ASC filed notice to intervene. The legal issues are pending before Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James.

In Kilbuck, a community of 723 people, officials generally have been supportive of the development, which would produce new tax revenues for their tiny community. This month, ASC Development presented a revised plan to the Kilbuck planning commission. The planning commission recommended the plan for approval and sent it to the township supervisors, who are expected to vote on it at their May 15 meeting.

Even if the new plan is approved, nothing will happen until the legal battles are resolved.

Jan Ackerman can be reached at jackerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.

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