Crawford Street

Concrete barriers stood in October 2019 at the dead end of Crawford Street to prevent heavy trucks from using the road to get to a development site in North Strabane.

A dispute between Canonsburg Borough and a contractor who plans to develop property in North Strabane Township known as Greenwood Village is in court for a second round.

At the heart of the dispute is Canonsburg’s Crawford Street, which Zokaites Contracting Inc., a general partner of Greenwood Village L.P., states “is not completely improved for the entirety of its right-of-way.”

About eight to 15 feet of Crawford Street is gravel, but Zokaites Inc. claims it and the property’s previous owner have accessed a 62-acre tract from Crawford Street for the past 70 years.

The borough placed concrete barriers at the edge of the improved part of Crawford Street in June 2018, causing Zokaites Inc. to go to court the first time.

The barriers blocked Crawford Street’s dead end, and Zokaites claimed $5 million in damages.

North Strabane approved the 233-unit residential development with conditions that a new public road be built extending from Crawford, which would be used as an access road.

Judge Michael Lucas, in dismissing what Zokaites called Canonsburg’s equivalent to a declaration of taking, noted in a Sept. 18 opinion the borough was not a party to the agreement, Greenwood had never submitted a plan for Canonsburg to consider and no public hearings were conducted.

In discussing the issue at an October council meeting last year, it came to light residents complained of large construction vehicles traveling on Crawford Street and continuing on a dirt alley to the development site. A councilman said Crawford Street was not designed to handle that type of traffic.

About a month later, Zokaites submitted plans and engineers’ drawings to borough council for improving the gravel part of Crawford Street. A letter from the contractor stated the borough did not appear to have a procedure to handle the request, and asked that the information and drawings he submitted be considered as an application for approval.

At a December borough council meeting, there was a motion regarding Crawford Street to use its “connections as means for emergency access to the Greenwood Village development plan.”

A councilman, according to the minutes, asked if a gate was one of the features, and the borough solicitor replied this was one of the conditions.

The motion passed by a vote of 7-0, and council approved the minutes Monday night.

When Frank R. Zokaites, president of Zokaites Contracting Inc., asserted in the suit he did not receive any communication on the matter, so he inquired at the borough building.

As of Jan. 7, he did not have “anything in writing,” according to the petition filed with the court, regarding proposed alterations of the plan, the gate, or any other proposed conditions.

Joseph R. Dalfonso, Canonsburg solicitor, disagrees.

“It appears Zokaites Contracting never signed for or picked up (its) certified mail,” Dalfonso wrote in response to an email inquiry.

“He was notified of council’s decision via letter from my office sent on Dec. 11.

“With regard to the litigation, the borough considers the proposed connection to Crawford Street inadequate for traffic of a development so large.”

Zokaites, in court documents, claimed placing a gate on Crawford Street and limiting it to emergency access only would improperly “restrict the public’s use of the public road.”

Zokaites asked the court to approve its plan as submitted to the borough. No date has been set to consider the matter.

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