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Local Biz Owners Share Thoughts for West Liberty Avenue

Dormont business owners and residents shared thoughts and concerns at Wednesday's informational meeting regarding #1 Cochran's proposed West Liberty Avenue business plan.

Dormont business owners and residents gave mixed reviews of the options the borough presented Wednesday for working with the .

that includes land swaps with , as well as improvements to West Liberty Avenue. The land swap, however, would involve taking ownership of the triangle-shaped parking lot at the corner of West Liberty Avenue and McFarland Road in exchange for land it currently owns—a move some said could have serious negative consequences for business owners in that block of West Liberty Avenue.

Earlier this year, the borough formed a committee of small business owners and residents who could be affected by the plan, to look at options for either implementing or not implementing #1 Cochran's proposal.

Following Dormont Council's presentation of options Wednesday, Dan Damratoski, owner of South Hills Dental Care, presented an alternate plan to council. The plan involved allowing the borough to keep its parking spaces, while finding alternate space that #1 Cochran could use to expand its business.

He said in past land deals on West Liberty Avenue, some buildings were torn down, decreasing the amount of tax revenue the borough could have been able to collect.

"I guess we have to keep in mind that everything we're dealing with are suppositions," said Louise Pitcher, who is involved with Dormont's Main Street Program. "Yes, some buildings are gone, but they're not coming back. The suppositions about the future are even scarier. We don't have a crystal ball."

A representative from asked council members to consider the location of the school, which has many students who commute and must park in the borough during classes.

"If that lot's not there, it's not feasible to valet students for eight hours a day," she said. "You have to explore other options. I feel that it has to be a win-win situation for everyone. Cochran wants to grow its business, and so do we."

Her pick, she said, was for the borough to use its first option—to do nothing, and make no changes to the West Liberty Avenue business district.

Although some business owners said that would be the best option because it would maintain the current parking arrangement in the borough, owner Joe DeMarco said he didn't think it would be the best long-term option for the borough.

"Everyone should keep an open mind. You have to weigh out every option and it's not 'you're for us or against us,' it has to be what's best for Dormont," he said. "I think doing nothing is not a viable option. When you look at what Cochran could do, just passing that option up is not a viable solution."

It was a concensus among several business owners, as well as Councilman John Maggio, that any plan that would take away parking in the borough, even for a short period of time, would have a negative impact on the whole borough.

No votes on the matter will be made until September at the earliest. No contracts between the borough and #1 Cochran have been signed.

Comments from the public are being accepted until the end of the work day on Friday. Those with questions or comments about the proposal and options can email borough manager Jeff Naftal at jnaftal@boro.dormont.pa.us.

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DSA August 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Cochran isn't going to leave if they don't get what they want for the simple fact that Dormont's lack of a mercantile tax is reason enough for them to stay. It wouldn't be good business thinking for them to pick up and move their business. Cain's is the only one that wants this, and that's because he's tight with Cochran, everyone knows that. Dormont needs to save and beautify their own town rather than wait for a car dealership to do it for them.
Donna August 17, 2012 at 02:13 PM
why cant cochran build a parking garage in the old beer dististributor parking lot across from scott road for everyone to use?
Ronald Ragghianti August 17, 2012 at 03:51 PM
As an active member and business owner in the Dormont Community (Ronald Ragghianti from Salon Primo) who has been deeply interested and educated on the matter known at the "#1 Cochran Proposal," I write with extreme concern regarding the legality and ethicality of the proposed Cochran land swap. By US Federal law, the primary duty of any state municipality council and elected alderman shall be "to exercise their elected powers on behalf of the inhabitants, local businesses, and municipality as a whole." As outlined in the the "Borough Council Handbook of Pennslyvania": It is also the role of the council "and its alderman to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality in the best interest of the inhabitants and local businesses." It is my feeling, and the collective feeling of the local business owners in the vicinity of the proposed landswap that 1.) the council is compromising its ethicality, efficacy and possibly legal rights by even engaging in the possibility of such a landswap and 2.) that the business owners and residents who will be directly and immediately effected by such an action have not received fair or even partial representation in this matter aside from what has quickly come to appear as dismissive lip-service.
Ronald Ragghianti August 17, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Finally, I question the very legality of the landswap between the borough and private enterprise "#1 Cochran" and especially all financial actions regarding said property (including ambiguous prior acquisitions and transfers) and in that regard, am highly interested in a proper legal investigation of the matter, which together with several local business owners, am appraising the best way to proceed to ensure due diligence on all matters surrounding this volatile proposal.
Erin Faulk August 17, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Ronald, Dormont Council is still accepting comments on the matter from local residents and business owners, until the end of the business day today. Borough manager Jeff Naftal is accepting comments at jnaftal@boro.dormont.pa.us. Responses will be provided in writing.
DSA August 17, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Good luck in that quest to find a part of this that is illegal. If history has anything to show, it's that several members of council disregard the law and try to push forward with their personal preferences. There are some reasonable folks on council, but they're outnumbered by other council members and their spouses that prefer to have Cochran move forward with their plans.
Blake Ragghianti August 17, 2012 at 05:36 PM
We have forwarded our comments directly to Jeff - who, as it happens to be, lives in Bethel Park but claims he "... just love Dormont so much!." Then why does he live in Bethel Park. I know for a fact that council members are required by law to live in the borough they council for... I wonder if this is true also for the Borough Manager. As an aside, disregard for the law cannot continue.
Cassie from CASSANDRA'S FLORALS August 17, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I whole heartly agree with Ron & so do almost all the business in the 3200 block of west liberty. for years i have questioned their decisions & ways they do things, i have stood up for all business in this community & all i have ever got was heartache, problems & nasty remarks thrown my way. I expressed just these thoughts at the last meeting to council & mamangement who said i was a hot head & need to back off...Make one wonder what they are worried about. God forbid when someone has a different thought or actually speaks up. ALSO THEY DONT LIKE IT BUT THEIR BUSINESS DISTRICT GOES TO MCFARLAND NOT TO WHERE THEY WANT IT TO STOP..BUT AGAIN THEY DON'T CARE. I fell sorry for everyone who has a business from Wisconsin to Mcfarland..they just don't care. Such a shame.
Lauren Sabo August 18, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Donna, The property that you are referring to is in Mt Lebanon. The boundary is McFarland Rd. As are the several parking spaces on West Liberty Ave on the opposite side of the street (by Truver's Jewelry Store and heading towards the beauty academy). Found this out the hard way when our car was side swiped there.
Robert Truver August 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The borough of Dormont could of continued to lease this property for as long as they wanted. The only reason they purchased, it is because Dormont was approached by Cochran. And now they make it seem like it is such a burden to have, and needs Cochran to save them from themselves. Council needs to take their blinders off. Someone needs to dig deeper into this mess for the good of ALL residents and business owners.
Cassie from CASSANDRA'S FLORALS August 19, 2012 at 04:34 AM
well said rob
Bob Dini August 24, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I believe Dormont Borough purchased the lot from the Port Authority to protect the interests of Dormont Borough and was a wise decision at that time. Had they not pursued PAT, Cochran would have had the ability to do the same and we would have no options of land swap,rejection of future construction or any similar option. Additionally, as I also would have liked to see the Borough Manager reside in Dormont Borough, he has children. To subject his children to the level of scrutiny, rage and childhood behavior exhibited by residents and business owners in Council meetings and these public forums was likely a wise decision.
Blake Ragghianti August 24, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Hello Bob; Your comments slide easily off your tongue given that you A.) don't reside directly in this area and B.) your business is in Mt. Lebanon, not Dormont, therefore you will be affected by the parking situation. It is easy to say that the small business owners are complaining when these matters don't affect your livelihood. Fact 1: Cochran is making a swap of their farther away and smaller lot (which will have to be renovated for borough use) for the closer and larger borough lot used everyday, all day, and at night by those who frequent businesses along this strip. As it stands, there aren't enough parking spots to accomodate all of the employees of these businesses let alone their clients/customers. A further reduction in parking spots, let alone the inconvenience of the smaller lots location doesn't seem like something that is "in the borough's best interest" - or certainly not in the best interest of the small business owners along that strip. Fact 2: If you live in one of the immediately outlying streets, there is a 100% guarantee that there will be an overflow of Cain's and Franco's parking into the parking spots which are to be used for your home. As it stands, there are hardly enough spaces for the residents - and many argue NOT enough. Where will residents park when business customers take their spots? Will people start placing chairs out in the street like the south side?
Blake Ragghianti August 24, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Has anybody noticed that there isn't ONE small business owner in this area (not to mention residents or churches) who actually WANT this swap to happen... and yet the council continues to push ahead with Cochran.
Erin Faulk August 24, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I want to make it very clear that at this point in time, #1 Cochran's proposal is just that—a proposal. I spoke again with borough manager Jeff Naftal via email on Wednesday, and confirmed that nothing has been finalized in regard to this proposal. No part of this proposal has been approved, and no contracts have been signed between the borough and #1 Cochran. This deal has not been finalized, and aside from discussion, no steps have been taken by either the borough or by #1 Cochran to put this plan in action. Blake, the swap you are referring to has not been made. If you are going to list items as fact in this comment section, please provide documentation to support your statement so as not to mislead readers. Should this situation change, or should new information become available, I certainly will publish an article to inform the public as soon as possible. Thanks.
Blake Ragghianti December 21, 2012 at 11:30 PM
"Fraud, Sell-outs and Ignorance once again attack our lovely little Dormont Neighborhood." After the immense push back by the entirety of the small business owners in the Dormont Strip along Washington Road between Peermont and Biltmore Roads it looks like the magic swap with Cochran has actually happened to the tune of millions of dollars. Construction beings shortly, taking at least 30 parking spots from customers and employees of those business directly across the street in an area where parking is already congested. Of course, as the Dormont Council noted, you can still park in another lot about 300 yards away (temporarily) where there are fewer spaces. But soon that too will be gone. Oh well, who needs small businesses. Dormont could easily be a lovely place to live - too bad it is governed by the short-sightedness of a sell-out council who would prefer it to turn into Auto-Row. Thanks a lot for upholding your mission "to maintain and guarantee a strong local business community" by bleeding those small businesses to death why succumbing to the schedule of a multi-million dollar corporation. But then again, the Dormont Borough Manager who claims to "love Dormont so much!" actually lives on the other side of Bethel Park. Hmm.... is that even legal? And I wonder where Mr. Cochran lives... in Dormont? I think not. Bravo council. Bravo.

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