A Connellsville, Pa., man is finding opposition from neighbors to his request to construct a “resort-type” structure in Dunbar Township near River’s Edge Campground, the Connellsville Daily Courier reported.
At a public hearing Wednesday (Sept. 22), Geno Gallo, the former owner of River’s Edge Campground, brought his request for a special exception to the Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board. Gallo would like to place what is considered a resort-type business to this community 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
His venture would target those who are using the nearby bike trail.
Gallo wants to construct a maximum of 40 cabins, a swimming pool, a larger cabin with a meeting place, a cabin to sell and prepare food, three-sided structures for cyclists, RV sites and a residential structure where Gallo would live on 30-plus acres of land he owns in the Dunbar Township area.
The land is separated by the River’s Edge Campground, which has been owned by a relative’s corporation since 2005.
Gallo testified before the board that he has wanted to do something for the bike trail and found a need for lodging in the area. He said a business there would bring in additional revenue for the local utilities as well as the township; he added that his first phase of the project would be to construct 10 to 15 cabins.
Cathy McCollom, who was formerly with the Trail Town Program and the Progress Fund, did not represent the organizations she was affiliated with when she testified about a 2008 study that pointed out a need for hotel and motel lodging in Fayette County, especially Connellsville.
“It’s important for Connellsville to seek lodging,” McCollom said, adding that those who use the bike trail spend $96 in a town along the trail in comparison to the $13 they spend if they don’t spend the night in a town.
McCollom said the proposed area being a few miles away could help fill that need.
However, five residents around that area expressed opposition to the proposal.
Colleen Joseph, who resides along Adelaide Road, said she has been subjected to RVs traveling on her property because the roadway is too narrow.
“Safety is the biggest issue,” Joseph said.
Joseph Ritz Jr., who resides along Adelaide Hills and looks over the campground, said he opposes the proposed special exception for several reasons — smoke drifts from the campground area up into his residence and he fears the problems that might be associated with bringing travelers into the area.
“This will devalue property,” Ritz said. “We are a huge tax base.”
Beth Kuhns, who resides along Adelaide Road, brought a petition signed by approximately 40 residents expressing opposition to the proposal; however, the petition was not brought into evidence because of an objection by Gallo’s attorney, Doug Sepic, who said the petition is hearsay because not all of those who signed the petition were available to be questioned at the hearing.
Kunhs said many of the complaints came from the ongoing changes with the plans. She said she heard the number of cabins fluctuated hearing at times there may be 80 cabins.
“We purchased this for a residential community, not for RV sites,” Kuhns said.
Gretchen Mundorff, attorney for the zoning hearing board, reminded the residents that the special exception request wasn’t for changing the zoning. The area is currently zoned as agricultural, which Mundorff said is the riskiest piece of zoned land to have a residence. She said that zoning designation could mean anything from a shooting range to mining can occur next to a residential property.
The board will announce its decision within 45 days.