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It’s Only a Dump If the Township Says It Is

When is a dump a dump? In our view, Wexford Farms, with its mounds of cement rubble, jersey barriers, and asphalt piles is a commercial dump and waste area, and the activity there needs to stop.

In our community, it is a pretty fortunate thing to live across from a farm.

Watching the sun rise and set over crop fields, the summer corn slowly emerge from the ground until it forms row after row of small golden trees, and the occasional tractor rolling across the landscape—all of it a connection to Pine Township’s earlier days.

But when that farm has been transformed into a commercial dumping ground and “waste area,” it quickly loses its idyllic luster. 

So is the situation that presents itself to Pine Township residents whose houses sit across from Wexford Farms at the corner of Pearce Mill Road and the Red Belt.

Some might say this dump is only a problem for those of us who live near the farm—the ones who, for nearly three years now, have had to tolerate the repeated explosive bangs of dump truck doors; the vibration from the compacting of pieces of highway rattling our houses; the incessant rumbling of trucks up and down Pearce Mill Road and the Red Belt; the incessant beeping of trucks seemingly always in reverse; and the dust blanketing our patio furniture, windows and decks.

Imagine spring and summers in your backyard with this constant industrial racket as background music.

But the existence of this commercial dump—or “waste area for roadway construction projects,” which is how it’s described on several project documents related to its operation—should concern all township residents.

We doubt many of you who drive by Wexford Farms relish the view: piles of asphalt, lines of construction vehicles, mounds of cement rubble, and lovely jersey barriers. It has become an industrial complex. 

This waste area is now part of your community, and if the township has its way, it may be for years to come.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this situation—beyond the banging and vibrations and dust and industrial-like scenery—is that the existence of a commercial dump and waste area unquestionably violates the township’s own rules and regulations, the township Code. And the frustration is only compounded by the township’s continued resolve to ensure that it continues unabated and unquestioned, without any consideration of the code.

The code is very explicit about what kind of activities and structures are and aren’t allowed in the Township’s various zoning district. In the zoning district where Wexford Farms sits (called Estate Residential or E-1)—directly in the middle of residential neighborhoods—a “waste area for roadway construction projects” is not listed among them.

And in cases where a property owner, organization, or company wants to do something not specifically allowed in the code, they can apply for a variance, or obtain a temporary or conditional use. But a “waste area for roadway construction projects” doesn’t pass muster for those options either.

This dump and waste area, operated by the large commercial contractor Joseph B. Fay Co., has been allowed to exist for the past three years via a bureaucratic sleight of hand: under the cloak of a grading permit. The township zoning officer and Board of Supervisors contend that this dump and waste area is just grading, which is typically defined as moving dirt around to make a property amenable for some other use.

It’s never been explained, however, why a grading project would involve the stockpiling of mountains of broken up chunks of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, jersey barriers, and asphalt piles; or why it would require armies of trucks hauling in roadway debris, including rebar and big hunks of metal and plastic. This is not the kind of fertile soil one associates with growing tomatoes and zucchini, at least not any we’d like to eat!

And to those of us who have been following this situation closely and who for months have urged the township to make this dumping stop, it’s unclear why, after three years, this alleged grading still isn’t completed.

On February 20, the township received a new grading permit application to continue this activity at Wexford Farms for another year. That brings the project to a total of four years. Why does it take four years to grade a few acres?

Consider that the entire Wexford Medical Mall recently approved by the township’s Board of Supervisors, a huge complex that will have  state-of-the-art medical facilities, will be entirely built and completed—grading and all—in 18 months.

And when this new permit expires, will another permit be approved?

There has been no required completion date for this project, nor has the Township shown any inclination to require one (the code speaks to that as well). Given the amount of PennDOT roadwork in Pine Township and the surrounding area, the site could continue to serve as a prime waste and storage area for the contractor’s use.

It has been intimated that even bridge reconstruction debris from Adams Township (yes, another township) will be placed at Wexford Farms.

Concerned Residents of Pine has argued that the activity at Wexford Farms is not simply grading, and as such requires zoning approval by the township’s Zoning Hearing Board.

With this, our case will be heard at a public hearing with the Zoning Hearing Board on Tuesday, February 26, at 7 p.m. at the Pine Community Center. We encourage any and all Pine residents who are concerned about this commercial dump and waste area in the middle of their community to attend this hearing.

To be certain, this is not simply a dispute among property owners. Rather, it’s a call for the township staff and Board of Supervisors to follow and enforce the code, and to act in the best interest of all property owners and taxpayers, not just in those of a large commercial contractor and PennDOT.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

crosbycat February 25, 2013 at 02:22 PM
I cannot imagine enduring this for 3 months, nevermind 3 years. How can Pine Twp supervisors allow a commercial dump in the middle of a beautiful park and an upscale neighborhood? What if these homeowners need to sell? What if their children have asthma? The noise, dust and stench of these trucks all day every day...when is local government going to act in the best interests of regular (unconnected) people, and make ethical decisions that won't benefit them and their caree rs financially?
Ray T February 25, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Well written argument asking for accountability. It would be easy to let this issue become overly emotional (and less effective). Well documented facts and objective data (often missing from other user-submitted Patch posts!) Good luck with your pursuit.
Impatiently waiting February 25, 2013 at 06:35 PM
The use of Wexford Farms as a waste area certainly is not in the interest of any Pine Township residents other than perhaps one property owner. When is the local government going to act in the best interest of the majority of its constituents and enforce the code that was written to protect them? This dumping ground is unacceptable.
arc202 February 25, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Thank you so much for bringing attention to this horrible situation! It is unbelievable that this is being permitted in the middle of a residential community! I am sure there is no end in sight as it is obvious that the township is NOT doing anything to stop this from continuing. I'm sure there is no intent from the "farmer" to end this anytime soon either as he is probably being paid a pretty penny to allow this debris to be disposed of on his property. Until the township steps up and does what is right for all the property owners in their jurisdiction, this will continue....perhaps coming to someone else's backyard as well!
Mktmaven February 26, 2013 at 02:56 AM
What should concern each and every resident of Pine is the response of the township staff and their supervisory elected officials, to the issues raised in objection to the continuance of this project. It is every citizen's responsibility to hold their elected officials accountable for their decisions and actions regarding code enforcement which can impact, in one way or another, all residents of the township - both present and future. No one property owner or commercial interest should be permitted to negatively impact the property values and/or quality of life of their neighbors, or the quality of our shared environment, for their own exclusive financial gain. Isn't that why the township codes were enacted in the first place?
crosbycat February 26, 2013 at 03:18 AM
Will debris from the turnpike bridge work further east on Route 910 also be dumped at Wexford Farms? The Joseph Fay Co. is again doing bridge work, and local bridge replacement and turnpike lane widening will continue for the next 6 years, according to the Tribune-Review (http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourfoxchapel/yourfoxchapelmore/3356714-74/road-township-turnpike#axzz2LyHBK3cQ).
Carmen Phillips February 26, 2013 at 12:36 PM
The Code is apparently optional when the Township and the Board of Supervisors say so. As somebody who has followed this closely, it is truly disturbing. There needs to be some accountability. And, yes, good question, crosbycat. If this "grading" can go on for four years, why not four more? Lots of bridge work to keep Fay busy.
Pine Nuts February 26, 2013 at 01:44 PM
The Taxpayers of the community deserve better than a Board that acts like the Township is their own personal asset. It’s time to change this Board up next election in order to get some members that will actually look out for the residents rather than try to find ways to silence and deflect their legitimate concerns.
Impatiently waiting February 26, 2013 at 03:51 PM
We should also be concerned about possible substances being released into our air and water. The dump site generates significant dust and I wonder what is contained in it. I personally have seen puddles of green water along the side of Pearce Mill road - that run-off is going directly into Pine Creek which feeds North Park lake. I have zero confidence that any potential environmental hazards have been monitored.
Greg February 27, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Anyone hear how the meeting went last night?? I wasnt able to make it.
Greg February 27, 2013 at 01:32 PM
The Allegheny County Conservation District would be in charge of inspecting the site and addressing any complaints.
Concerned Citizens of Pine February 27, 2013 at 01:41 PM
It went very well. Our group's presentation and the witness testimony in support of our position went on for more than two hours. A second hearing has been scheduled for March 14, by which time the Township will have made its decision on the current grading permit application to continue the dumping/stockpiling activity at the Wexford Farms site. We'll provide a more detailed report on the meeting in the next day or so. Stay tuned!
Kathie February 27, 2013 at 09:58 PM
While I appreciate the frustration over the noise and unsightly view of Wexford Farms, I do respect the right of the farmer to do with his property as he wishes provided it is in compliance with the township code enforcement and Allegheny County Conservation. It is evident that all permits have been applied for and approved by the township and county. We all want our roads and bridges safe. Sometimes that means having a construction site temporarily set up in our neighborhood. There used to be a saying "temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement." For a couple of years while the turnpike was under construction, the construction company (J.B.Fay) had a site set up on both sides of Franklin Road. That project is now complete and the site is gone and property restored.
Parent #2 February 27, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Kathie- that was turnpike owned property that they were using next to Franklin Road. Completely different situation.
Greg May 10, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Anything new come out of this lately? I havent heard....

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