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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Site Near Proposed Wal-Mart In McCandless Could Become Wetland

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 FM WESA

McCandless residents will be tasked Monday with deciding whether to level three large retail buildings at the far, northern end of McKnight Road to revert the 27-acre slab of asphalt and concrete back into a wetland preserve.

The Allegheny Land Trust has proposed purchasing the land where a now-closed movie theater stands and then reclaim it as a wetland. The wetland would drain into a branch of Pine Creek, which currently runs along the side of the property.

“It will help lessen some of the floods that take place down stream because that area will be more or less a storm water retention area as well as a wetland and flood plain area,” said Bruce Betty,McCandless land use administrator. Pine creek drains into North Park Lake and eventually into the Allegheny River.

The movie theater that sits on the property was built before the current flood plain and wetland laws were passed in the 1980s.  Renovating the property could be cost prohibitive, Betty said.

“Regulations say that anytime that you renovate a building greater than 50 percent of its assed value, that the building has to meet current flood plain regulations,” Betty said. 

That could mean raising the building above the level of predicted floods.

To the east of the Rave Cinemas property is a 45-acre parcel owned by West Virginia-based WesBanco Inc. Wal-Mart has indicated it would like to buy that parcel, which houses two mostly-shuttered retail buildings. That proposed development has been the subject of months of public hearings and legal battles as local residents work to keep the Supercenter out of their neighborhood.

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The Allegheny Land Trust would like to turn much of the area outlined in yellow into a wetland. A small portion in the upper right corner of the parcel has been sold to the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

The wetlands deal has nothing to do with the Wal-Mart deal, according to Allegheny Land Trust vice president of land protection Roy Kraynyk. Under the proposed deal -- set for public debate at 7:30Monday at the McCandless Town Hall -- the Land Trust would purchase the parcel, immediately hand it over to the Town of McCandless and start drawing up and funding a plan to remove the building and create the flood plain.

A smaller portion the parking lot owned by Rave has already sold to the Allegheny County Port Authority for use as a park and ride lot.

“In addition to it being functional and holding back water and filtering silt and improving water quality, we want it to be aesthetically pleasing. We want it to be attractive. We want it to stimulate curiosity so people go there and perhaps learn about storm water management and learn about water filtration,” Kraynyk said.

The Allegheny Land Trust would not disclose terms of the sale and Kraynyk would not take a guess at what it will cost to complete the remediation work. They will look for private and government grants, he said.

The trust has had some success with a similar project in Upper St. Clair. The 80-acre Wingfield Pines Conservation Area was created along Chartiers Creek in 2001.

With agreement Monday, the plan will still need approval from city officials and the Allegheny Land Trust board. Kraynyk said he hopes to close the deal by the end of December.