Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Rules in Favor of Quaker Valley School District

On Friday, January 26, 2024, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released its much anticipated zoning decision regarding the Quaker Valley’s High School Project. That decision authored by the Honorable Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter in the case of Quaker Valley School District v. Leet Township Zoning Hearing Board, et al. affirmed the November 28, 2022 Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County granting zoning approval for the project.

The Court concluded in its opinion that, “We agree with the trial court that the ZHB’s decision, specifically the determination regarding an EOR, was based on speculation and is not supported by substantial record evidence. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court.” EOR stands for emergency only road.

This decision affirmed the ruling of the Honorable Judge Joseph James and ruled in favor of the Quaker Valley School District, allowing the District to move forward with the planning and construction of a new high school. 

“We are very pleased that the Court has affirmed Judge James’ decision reversing the Zoning Hearing Board and granting the District zoning approval for the new High School Project,” said Donald Palmer, Quaker Valley School District’s solicitor. “We were confident throughout this unusually long process that the District was entitled to zoning approval, and we are happy with the Court’s decision. We are ready to continue with the planning and construction of the much needed new high school.”

Previously, the Leet Township Zoning Board denied Quaker Valley School District’s special exception request to build a school on property off Camp Meeting Road on February 9, 2022, under the premise that the District must amend its application to add an emergency only road to its plans. The District challenged this determination for a number of reasons, including that the determination was based on speculation with no foundation in the record, that the District would be developing an emergency preparedness plan for the property—like it does for all of its properties—as required by state law and in cooperation with emergency responders, that such plan cannot be adopted in accordance with law until a much later date in the process, and that amending its application as required by the ZHB would have unnecessarily extended the already exceedingly lengthy zoning hearing process.

Current designs for the proposed new school include two access points to the property along Camp Meeting Road and will accommodate an average of 650 students each year with room for growth in enrollment. The building’s footprint will be approximately 167,000 square feet. The District anticipates opening the school in the fall of 2027. 

“We are appreciative of the court’s decision affirming Quaker Valley School District’s zoning application,” said Superintendent Dr. Tammy A. Andreyko. “This ruling provides continued validation of our commitment to creating a learning environment that prioritizes access to educational excellence for all students. We remain steadfast in our efforts providing quality education in a facility that will contribute to the overall well-being of our students and the communities we serve and building a safe facility that adheres to all necessary regulatory guidelines.”

Mr. Jon Kuzma, Quaker Valley School Board President, echoed these sentiments: “The District is dedicated to continuing to approach the project and building’s design with integrity and responsiveness to safety. We regret that so much time was lost on this project and fees assessed; however, we now feel more confident than ever moving forward with the support of the court.”

The District had its first public meeting with the Leet Township Planning Commission on Thursday, January 25 and will continue forward with the next phases of the building process.

As of September 2023, the Quaker Valley School Board also approved the maximum building construction cost at $72,129,518 and maximum project cost at $105,049,347. The District hosted the required Act 34 public hearing describing the need for the project and outlining all plans as they stand on October 26, 2023.

“We are prepared to take the next steps in the development and construction process including our continued meetings with the Leet Township Planning Commission,” shared Charlie Gauthier, Director of Facilities. “We will proceed diligently, following to all necessary regulations and working collaboratively with our partners, community organizations, and first responders. Together we will work to ensure we are providing a modern, state-of-the-art facility that will serve the community for the next 100 years.”

In June of 2021, the District hired architectural firms BSHM and Bohlin Cwynski Jackson and continued working on the building’s design. Throughout the past year, the District has unveiled and approved a number of plans including the schematic design, site plan, student experience presentations, and exterior finishes. 

In the fall of 2019, the District began working with Thomas and Williamson to determine the direction of a high school renovation or building project. Upon the decision to build a new school on approximately 150 acres at 210 Camp Meeting Road, the District faced opposition throughout the zoning hearing process with Leet Township.

The full opinion is available here: