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North Neighborhoods
Deer Creek project gets provisional permit from Army Corps

But state approval still needed for development to begin

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Deer Creek Crossing commercial development in Harmar has been issued a provisional permit by the Army Corps of Engineers, one day after the state said it wouldn't allow the $250 million project unless major changes were made to protect the popular fishing creek.

The provisional permit means that work on the site can't start until the developer, Woodmont-Orix Deer Creek Joint Venture, receives approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The corps permit requires the developer to make environmental improvements at and near the development tract to compensate for damage to wetlands and the stream, including the creation of more than seven acres of replacement wetlands and a 93-acre conservation easement that would bar development on a wooded parcel adjacent to the development.

Stephen Coslik, Woodmont's chief executive officer, said he is pleased with the corps' decision and is trying to find a way to address the state's concerns.

The most significant issue raised by the DEP is a 120-foot buffer zone along the creek to provide an adequate flood plain and wildlife corridor.

The developer must determine if the 1.2 million-square-foot development can still fit on the 243-acre parcel while meeting the state's 120-foot stream buffer requirement. Woodmont previously has rejected suggestions to downsize the development because the development must generate enough revenue to pay off loans.

The state is also concerned about the development's storm water management plan and inadequate plans to conserve tree canopy, brush and grasses along the creek.

Coslik is to meet with DEP officials Tuesday to outline the company's response. The developer has 60 days to submit a revised project plan to the DEP.

The controversial development would include retail stores, two hotels, office buildings and theaters on a pie-shaped parcel bounded by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and state routes 28 and 910. It was first proposed in 1999.

The DEP denied the permit for the original plan because it would have moved long sections of the stream and adversely impacted most of the almost 10 acres of wetlands.

Woodmont-Orix submitted a revised proposal for state and federal permit approval in September of last year that keeps the stream in its existing channel but requires two bridges and one 330-foot culvert. It also would move 7.4 million cubic yards of fill material, burying seven wetlands totaling almost six acres and 25 acres of flood plain while creating steep slopes 100 feet deep along some parts of the creek.

Scott Hans, a corps' permit reviewer, said the developer has made significant improvements to the first plan, the biggest being not moving the creek.

The current development plan is opposed by 20 sportsmen's, environmental and citizens' groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Allegheny County, Allegheny Valley School District and Harmar, which would receive increased tax revenues from the project, support it.

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