July 23, 1999
Group of irate residents
appeals rezoning decision
By Paul Sunyak
Herald-Standard Staff Writer
A group of irate residents living in the Burgess Field Road area of Georges Township has appealed a rezoning of about 20 acres of land as requested by Fay-Penn Economic Development Corp.
Four of those residents — Thomas J. Maust, Leonard Mangold, Carol Maust and Robert Maust — have formally asked the county's zoning hearing board (ZHB) to overturn the decision.
The county commissioners recently voted 2-1 to change the zoning to heavy industrial, over the seemingly unanimous objection of neighbors.
Commissioners Vincent A. Vicites and Harry E. Albert III voted in favor, saying they favor positioning the county for maximum job creation.
Commissioner Sean M. Cavanagh voted against, saying Fay-Penn has plenty of other vacant land in the county's 2,600-acre, tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ).
At Thursday's commission meeting, several residents and their supporters from elsewhere in the county slammed Fay-Penn for what they portrayed as an arrogant, uncaring attitude.
Carole Maust, who lives near the rezoned land, took issue with a full-page Sunday newspaper advertisement signed by Fay-Penn's board of directors, particularly its use of the the word ``ethical'' to describe the agency's way of doing business.
Maust said she, as an adjoining property owner, was never contacted about the proposed rezoning as required. ``Is this ethical?'' she asked.
Public statements :Many savvy citizens
Residents attack Fay-Penn
By LIZ ZEMBA
Courier Staff Writer
UNIONTOWN - Fay-Penn Economic Development Council and former county commissioner Fred Lebder were this week's targets for criticism among residents attending Thursday's Fayette County commissioners' meeting.
Several of those attacking Fay-Penn referred to newspaper advertisements the agency ran last Sunday. The ads appeared following a recent increase in criticism of the agency.
In the ads, Fay-Penn: touted its job creation/retention record; said allegations it is a "political tool of the alleged power brokers in the county" are paranoid delusions; described its critics as "creating a lot of hot air"; and vowed to "continue with its ethical approach to economic development."
The ads were signed by 44 businessmen and women.
Carol Maust, a Georges Township resident who lives near a tract of land commissioners rezoned from agricultural-rural to heavy industrial at Fay-Penn's request, took issue with the agency describing itself as ethical. Alleging state Rep. Larry Roberts (D-51) advised her Fay-Penn had told its board members it had talked to each homeowner individually regarding the rezoning, she contended none were contacted.
"Fay-Penn indeed did not come out, did not talk to any of us, individually, as homeowners," she alleged. "This is not ethical."
Vicites said Lori Omatick of Fay-Penn did address some 30 homeowners in the area on at least one occasion. He said Omatick also offered to speak with each homeowner individually.
Dave Lohr of South Connellsville, who along with Commissioner Sean Cavanagh is running as an independent candidate for county commissioner, questioned where Fay-Penn found the funds to pay for the ads. Saying Fay-Penn manages various state and federal grants for the county, Lohr asked commissioners to find out if taxpayer dollars were used.
Several residents also asked commissioners to look into the agency's real estate dealings, alleging some of its board members may have profited off taxpayer dollars through property sales associated with Fay-Penn contracts and programs.
Vicites, saying most of the allegations were "crazy," suggested the agency's critics take their concerns directly to Fay-Penn. When audience members complained it's the commissioners responsibility to "investigate" the agency, Vicites agreed to ask Fay-Penn in written correspondence if any of its board members have profited off its contracts.
The Rev. Peter Malik, a frequent critic of Albert and Vicites, alleged Lebder is the mastermind behind a so-called "political machine" he says is responsible for orchestrating every governmental decision in the county.
Malik alleged Lebder has been, over the past 30 years, the most influential individual in county politics. He and Geraldine Mazza of Vandberbilt, another frequent critic of Albert and Vicites, alleged all of Vicites' decisions during his tenure in office were made at the direction of Lebder.
Malik went on to call upon all candidates for commissioner to say whether they are for or against "the machine."
Vicites, saying he doesn't like the term "machine" when it comes to county government, said Lebder has never asked him to vote for or against anything.
"Every decision I made was what I thought was right in my mind and heart," said Vicites. "He's never asked me to do anything...I'll swear on the Bible to that."