The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Board has rejected a proposal to build , but those involved with the project say they’re not putting it to rest.
After putting so much work into the project application, which was submitted in February, South Pittsburgh Development Corporation member said the rejection was frustrating at first. But after taking a few days to think about it, he said he doesn’t think the project is a failure—not yet.
“In the spirit of things, I don’t feel we’re dead in the water on this one,” he said. “We still have a lot of Brookline community members who are looking forward to it.”
Burgh Bees owner and master beekeeper Steve Repasky said the problem wasn’t with the bees—it was with the lease SPDC has with the City of Pittsburgh for the .
The wording of the lease states that SPDC can’t lease the property to a third party. Repasky said he and SPDC members believed they wouldn’t be violating the lease because Burgh Bees would be considered a project manager and not a lease holder for the property.
However, the City’s zoning board read the lease to mean that by making Burgh Bees the project manager, SPDC was, in effect, naming the organization as a third-party lease holder.
“It was rejected based on the wording of the lease,” Repasky said. “It’s a really convoluted, goofy situation right now, but we’re working through it.”
SPDC and Burgh Bees have been working together to make the project possible, and there are several options they could take. One option is to amend the lease to allow a third-party lessee, a step SPDC members already are in the process of doing.
They also could rewrite the application specifying that SPDC, not Burgh Bees, would be the project manager. Or, the groups can appeal the zoning board’s decision in court, which Mallory and Repasky said they are prepared to do.
The two groups are continuing to discuss the project. Mallory said an amendment to the lease has been written, and SPDC plans to submit it to the City of Pittsburgh by the end of this week.
Mallory said he’s grateful to SPDC members for continuing to support the project. The project had the approval of SPDC, the Brookline Chamber of Commerce and Brookline Area Community Council before the application was submitted to the city for approval.
“I have no idea how it’s going to go now,” Mallory said. “There’s still a lot of spirit. We still have the money for the development of the project. We have other projects going on that are going to keep people engaged in community involvement.”
Repasky said if the project is approved in the next few weeks, Brookline could still have a community apiary by the end of the summer or early this fall.
“We’re not going to give up. We have too much support,” Repasky said. “It’s a community project, not a Burgh Bees project. Brookline wants this. We don’t have to come here. They want us here.”