Municipality takes the initiative to “sell” Millennium Park | News

As an appeal remains mired in Lawrence County courts for lowering Millennium Park’s assessed value, Neshannock Township supervisors are taking preliminary steps to market this land – and others in the township – for growth economic.

Supervisors at their regular Wednesday meeting gave permission to Gateway Engineers Inc. of Pittsburgh for watercourse and wetland delineation work on the lands of the 300-acre Millennium Park property.

But the business can’t proceed until it has permission from the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., which owns the property.

Supervisor Leslie S. Bucci explained at the meeting that the township has been asking the economic development corporation for several years if Millennium Park is suitable for more development.

Currently, Steelite Co. occupies part of the land, and an adjoining specification building that economic development has built is leased to Steelite, but no further development has transpired there.

“Unfortunately, we really haven’t had a lot of response,” Bucci said. The township has asked to see studies the company may have already done on geotechnical, environmental and technical aspects, but the LCEDC board must vote on whether it will provide this information to the township, she said. declared.

The township has also asked LCEDC for an entry fee so that Gateway engineers can perform a geotechnical survey on the property.

The township hired Gateway Engineers to examine the property and determine the composition of the soil, she said.

The township’s due diligence on the property is set apart from the pending court appeal by the economic development corporation to lower the assessed value of the park area.

Last fall, the LCEDC asked the county appeals board to assess a reduction in the assessed value of the land because it is unused.

Following a public hearing in October, the board denied the request and the LCEDC appealed to the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.

A status conference was held this week in court, but no settlement was reached between attorneys representing the LCEDC and the three taxing agencies – the County, Neshannock Township and Neshannock Township School District. .

Part of the still undeveloped area of ​​Millennium Park is in a flood zone. There are wetlands, an area of ​​archaeological significance and lead contamination from skeet shooting on part of the land formerly occupied by a sports association. There is no natural gas line to a section of the property and the site has limited access to Interstate 376. These are all reasons the marketing of the land failed, said the executive director of the LCEDC, Linda Nitch, at the assessment hearing.

The economic development corporation first purchased the property with these features already in place, hoping – without guarantee – to attract a semiconductor factory from a company that ultimately chose to locate outside the county. of Lawrence. That was over 20 years ago.

Since then, the LCEDC has not been put on the market through a real estate agent, but Nitch had testified during the hearing that other attempts had been made to sell it, including placing it on State and Regional Alliance of Pittsburgh websites. These efforts were in vain.

During that hearing, Nitch also said the property’s tax-free designation as a Key Opportunity Expansion Zone to attract potential development expired in 2020 and the township had not approved the renewal of the status before the deadline.

Meanwhile, the township introduced an ordinance instituting a property tax abatement program for business and industry in an extended corridor of the township, and supervisors included the Millennium Park property in this stretch.

The ordinance designates specific commercial and industrial zones in the township where new construction and improvements costing existing businesses more than $25,000 can remain 100% tax-free for 10 years.

The initiative is part of the state’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Program, which allows local tax agencies to provide a tax exemption as an incentive for new development and redevelopment of aging or damaged properties. deterioration.

The corridors designated in the proposed ordinance, in addition to Millennium Park, include the entire length of Highway 18 (Wilmington Road) from the city line to the Wilmington Township border, industrial properties, including the Industrial Park Northgate and adjacent industrial properties, a section of commercial plaza off Mercer Road from the building of Pizza Joe’s north, including the plaza and the intersection of Mercer Road and Maitland Lane.

The tax abatement order and accompanying map showing the designated areas are to be formally adopted at the next regular meeting of supervisors at 7 p.m. on March 30.

“The goal with LERTA is to tell people that we’re open for business in the township, and we want you to come here if the property is developable,” Bucci said.

She stressed the importance for the township to have a mix of residential, industrial and commercial properties to create jobs to help pay property taxes and payroll taxes, so that “as costs rise, you don’t have to keep reaching out to your residents for more money.

“We were expecting Millennium Park improvements, but (they didn’t) happen,” Bucci said. “We think now is the time.”

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com