VIBRANT UPTOWN UPDATE The pandemic stalled plans for open public meetings for the Vibrant Uptown project, a several-year, several-stage project to update Mt. Lebanon’s central business district, on Washington Road, from roughly Rollier’s Hardware to Washington School.
Plans call for updates to sidewalks, lighting, conduit, installation of public art, upgraded signage and other amenities, which could include the reconfiguration of street planters and seating, and a reimagining of the plazas in front of the light rail transit station and the municipal building.
But virtual meetings helped kick the project back into gear. The project currently has about $3.9 million set aside for the various stages, although funding is subject to commission allocation.
No timeline has been set but businesses in the district will remain open during the entire project.
You can keep updated by going to the project webpage: mtlebanon.org/vibrantuptown. On that page you can sign up for periodic email updates. Questions? Have them answered at email@example.com.
SURVEY SAYS In most cases, homebuyers don’t need a property survey to obtain a mortgage, so many opt to skip this step, as it saves time and money during the buying process. However, deciding not to have your property surveyed could lead to headaches in the future, if you plan to eventually build on it.
In Mt. Lebanon, you must submit a survey with most permit applications. Inspectors review the survey and use it to assess the placement of the proposed project—fence, shed, addition, deck or garage—and ensure that it meets the zoning ordinance.
“People don’t have good copies of their survey readily at hand,” says Chief Inspector Rodney Sarver, “and that can cause a problem. We spend a lot of hours on our copy machine, trying to scale surveys so that we can make sure projects meet the zoning ordinance. Lots of people are just taking snapshots of a survey on their phones and submitting them … People would get their permits quicker if they didn’t do that.”
Sarver noted that the number of obsolete surveys the office has been receiving has increased in recent years. If anything has been done to a property since the last time it was surveyed, the inspection department often can’t use the survey, further delaying the permit process. For example, if someone wanted to build a deck onto a 10-year-old addition, but the survey is 20 years old and does not show the addition, the inspectors would not be able to use it.
“An up-to-date, quality survey is important. Because no matter what you want to do, whether it’s now or in the future, it will come in handy,” says Sarver.
KEEPING UP WITH INSPECTIONS While it’s not completely business as usual in the Mt. Lebanon Inspection Department, there has been no lack of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s actually busier than it normally is, because everybody wants to submit and get their permit in the system now,” says Chief Inspector Rodney Sarver. Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order prevented the inspection department from issuing permits for several weeks.
To stay on top of the applications, his team has been working diligently—albeit in shifts—to ensure that they can issue permits as soon as they are permitted to do so. “Me and Josh [Meyer], the building inspector, are working every other day in the office so that we’re not in contact with each other. Whoever is not in the office is working remotely, so we still have two inspectors working. That way, in case one of us gets sick, at least we have
In addition to answering calls and accepting permits, Meyer has been able to continue some of his inspecting duties through the pandemic. The shutdown order allowed for inspections of health care facilities, structures that are “substantially complete,” meaning they have already been issued an occupancy permit, or in emergency repair situations.
By May 1, the governor was allowing construction to continue, with safety measures and social distancing policies.