Construction of upscale homes overlooking this historic mining town came one step closer to reality with Paint Township Planning Commission’s approval.

Winchester Estates is being developed by Laurel Paving owner John Rugg on property above St. Anthony of Padua Church Cemetery off Route 160.

“We have put together a very beautiful proposed community,” Rugg said at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

“We are anxious to get started.”

Rugg and engineers from Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc. of Johnstown have been working with the township and its engineers for several months, addressing possible development issues.

“We are ready to make a recommendation to approve a recommendation to the (township) supervisors,” engineer Pat Mulcahy of the EADS group told the commission.

Supervisors could approve plans at their meeting Monday, clearing the way for initial site work within weeks, Rugg said.

Mulcahy went through the 54-home development plans, going over a checklist of engineers’ previous comments and explaining how each issue is being addressed.

The commission unanimously recommended final approval by township supervisors, but included several provisions that need to be addressed. Issues as minor as the size of margins on engineers’ drawings were discussed.

Commission members are being extremely vigilant after problems from Ramblin’ Hills, Paint’s other new development, Chairman Howard Locherie said.

Stormwater entering an open manhole in an unapproved sewer line at Ramblin’ Hills was blamed for overloading the system, sending raw sewage into Jackson Avenue homes in August 2005. Rugg’s home was among those seriously damaged.

“We think Mr. Rugg is going to follow the plans,” Locherie said, adding commission members rely on the expertise of township engineers at EADS.

Recent negotiations with Windber Borough leaders may eliminate one remaining stumbling block, township Solicitor Michelle Tokarsky said. Paint must reach an agreement with the borough on sewage fees because lines from the new development will connect to borough-owned sewers in Baumgardner Heights.

“The borough’s position – and I don’t disagree – is that township residents should bear some of the expense of maintaining those lines,” Tokarsky said.

Windber wants $1,000 usage fee for each new connection, and recently agreed to consider setting that money aside specifically for maintenance issues. That would relieve some of Paint leaders’ concerns, Tokarsky said.

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