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Politics & Government

A Wilkinsburg nonprofit has filed a petition to start the annexation process

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Sarah Kovash
/
90.5 WESA

The nonprofit advocating for the annexation of Wilkinsburg into the City of Pittsburgh has officially initiated that process. The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation submitted a petition to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Friday.

According to the resulting court order, the Allegheny County Elections Division will now review the signatures. A hearing is scheduled in January to determine whether the petition should be forwarded to Pittsburgh City Council.

The group had to collect signatures twice, according to executive director Tracey Evans. The WCDC’s original goal was to get a referendum to Wilkinsburg voters on the November 2021 ballot. When Pittsburgh City Council appeared not to support the effort, the WCDC hit the brakes and set a new goal for the May 2022 ballot.

The group collected the signatures over the fall. According to state annexation law, petitioners need valid signatures from at least 5% of Wilkinsburg’s registered voters.

According to the Allegheny County Elections office, there are 12,750 registered voters in Wilkinsburg, which means the group needed 638 signatures.

Evans said her group collected nearly twice that, with more than 1,200 signatures.

Anyone wishing to object to the petition to initiate the annexation can review the documents and submit written objections by Friday, Dec. 17.

According to the county, no one had filed an objection as of Monday.

Wilkinsburg Borough Council members spoke overwhelmingly against the annexation in a meeting with Pittsburgh City Council last week. The body has no official say in the matter, but Wilkinsburg Council president Pamela Macklin said council members are in talks with their legal counsel to determine their next steps. It’s unclear if they will challenge the petition in court.

If the annexation petition clears the courts Jan. 5, it would then head to Pittsburgh City Council for a vote. Council would have three months to consent or disapprove of the proposed annexation.

That could mean Pittsburgh City Council holds off on a vote until April, one month before the referendum would be put to voters.

Council members said last week they would like to continue conversations with experts and officials from both municipalities about the transition process before forming an opinion.

Only two of nine city council members have spoken in favor of the annexation, Corey O’Connor and Anthony Coghill. Others have either expressed hesitation about the speed of the process or unanswered questions about school district finances, vacant properties and how to consolidate borough services and jobs.

The court of common pleas will hold a hearing on the petition Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 1:30 p.m.