Legislation introduced Wednesday in Pittsburgh City Council would largely prohibit development in parks and greenways.
The bill would generally restrict work to only maintenance activities, with residential development entirely blocked and commercial development limited to projects that would “directly support the public’s recreational enjoyment.” Areas with a park label under the city zoning code — it generally includes parks, greenways and some land surrounding them — already significantly restricts development that can happen without permission from the city zoning board.
Councilor Barb Warwick, D-Greenfield, told the Union Progress that she had Hays Woods Park in mind while drafting the bill. The 626 acres of green space, located south of the Monongahela River in her district, formally became the city’s second-largest park last month.
“Hays Woods is a brand new park — it’s a raw, rugged park space. And we want to make sure that it stays as park space,” she said.
The bill also places limits on construction of new roads through parks and greenways, requiring they be built “for the sole purpose of connecting the park’s or greenway’s resources to the people.” The city would have to meet several criteria and then hold a public hearing if it wanted to proceed with a new road.
Warwick said that part of the bill is inspired by the years of opposition from some city residents to the Peduto administration’s proposed Mon-Oakland Connector project, which would have built an autonomous shuttle through Schenley Park to connect Oakland with the Hazelwood Green redevelopment site.
“I don’t think that the residents should have had to fight that fight,” she said. “Our parks are arguably our most-valuable assets in Pittsburgh, and we shouldn’t have to fight against the city to keep them as park space.”
It appears the bill will not affect a proposed redevelopment of the former Irish Centre of Pittsburgh site on Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill. It is designated as park space under the city zoning code but is adjacent to, and not formally part of, Frick Park and would not be subject to the proposed legislation.
The city zoning board held a hearing last month on whether to grant variances, or breaks from zoning rules, so a 160-unit condominium building can be built on the site.