Barden wants to play by same development rules as stadiums | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Barden wants to play by same development rules as stadiums

Last week, the Steelers threw a penalty flag on a proposed North Side casino because, the team claimed, the developer hadn't prepared a detailed traffic study. Upon further review, however, casino officials say they're playing their game according to the Steelers' and the Pirates' playbook.

"Neither the Pirates or the Steelers submitted Traffic Management Plans until they almost took occupancy of their respective stadiums," says Bob Oltmanns, PITG spokesman. "According to the department of planning documents, the Steelers submitted their traffic plan on June 26, 2001, and the stadium opened August 15. The Pirates submitted their plan on March 6, 2001, and they opened on the 31st of that month."

On May 1, the City Planning Commission delayed its vote on the casino's master construction plan of PITG Gaming's Majestic Star Casino so developer Don Barden could better address the parking concerns of its North Side neighbors, including the Pirates and the Steelers.

"The claim from the Steelers that we should be required to submit our traffic and parking management plan as a condition of Master Site Plan approval, strikes as a bit unfair given the process they were asked to follow," Oltmanns says. "We're just asking for the same considerations."

The casino was hoping for a vote last week, but the scheduled hearing was cancelled and rescheduled for May 15 -- which is also the day the casino's attorneys will argue to the state Supreme Court that its awarding of the license by the state was proper

City transportation planner Sidney Kaikai said that coming back to the commission in two weeks with a revised study was "ambitious," but casino officials were confident they could meet the deadline.

The casino must sit down with its traffic planner, and an advisory group will work on traffic concerns. These concerns include increased traffic before and after Steelers and Pirate games, as well as the safety of pedestrians now that the traffic flow to the neighborhood will be increased.

Neither the Steelers nor the Pirates returned calls for comment. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Steelers' Art Rooney II said in a statement: "[I]t is critical for the city planning department to assure that a detailed traffic-impact study and traffic-management plan be in place before a master plan is approved."

Mark Fatla, executive director of the North Side Leadership Conference, is familiar with the process the casino is going through, as well as the process the stadiums went through. He says he is glad a thorough process is being conducted now, but says it is a much different one than the stadium-builders enjoyed.

"I will say that I'm startled by some of the arguments that the Steelers and Pirates are making," Fatla says, "especially given the cozy process they were given when they were building the stadiums.

"There are a lot of complex issues that deserve the kind of time and scrutiny the planning commission is giving the project. However, it's certainly not the same process that the stadiums got."