Twelve Year Sweet Deal

March 6, 1999


From the AAAP listserver, sent by: Pete Zapadka

HI all --

Below is the Valley News Dispatch story Kenn wrote about. Now the ball's in our court. We need to contact each municipality around Wagman Observatory, starting with Indiana Township and extending northeast to Buffalo Township in Butler County, with an official letter from the AAAP.

We basically need to say: "Development in your community is your business. But please establish strict lighting controls for these developments and extend them to your entire community so we can continue to bring the night sky to the people."

For those of you who live in these areas, we need names, addresses and phone numbers of township supervisors and municipal leaders.

We can turn this, what seems to be a terrible turn for the worst, into our finest hour. But only if we work at it now.

Clear and dark skies,

Pete


Feb. 26, 1999

State approves all local tax-free business areas

By Eijiro Kawada Staff writer The state's newly created tax-free economic development zones are expected to bring at least 2,000 jobs and dozens of companies to the Valley. The job estimates are based on two of the seven sites chosen in the Valley where plans to lure companies are already underway. The other five sites are in the early planning stages. In all, 44 tax-free sites, known as Keystone Opportunity Zones, were approved by the state Thursday. The seven sites in the Valley total 777 acres. Those sites: --Tarentum: along Bakerstown Road; --West Deer: Rock Airport Industrial Park; --Apollo: former B&W site; --Manor: a small undeveloped industrial park; --Ford City: the former PPG site; --South Buffalo: Slate Lick Industrial Park; --Clinton: former USX site. In these zones, employers, employees and residents won't pay any local, county and state taxes for the next 12 years. Those tax breaks are meant to bring new companies and jobs to sites that officials have struggled to develop. Two sites -- the Slate Lick Industrial Park in South Buffalo and the Rock Airport Industrial Park in West Deer -- already have concrete plans. The others are still in the early planning stages. Nonetheless, Thursday's announcement was welcome news for Tarentum Councilman Joe Davidek, who has been hoping to develop the borough's 27-acre site along Bakerstown Road since he was borough manager in the 1980s. "Each time we tried to do something with the site, something didn't work out," he said. The borough wants to develop the site for residential, light-manufacturing and hi-tech factories, Davidek said. Manor Township Supervisor Howard Jack said he was surprised that the township's nine-acre site was included. "I was a little bit skeptical," he said. "We are very pleased." The site has four lots with water and sewer lines ready for small businesses. The site, now a vacant lot, is owned by Armstrong County, and hasn't been generating tax revenue for the township. Statewide, the 44 tax-free sites total 5,000 acres. They are divided into a dozen regions that span seven counties. Each region will receive a one-time $250,000 grant to implement a development plan for all of its projects, said Ruth Reidbord, co-coordinator for the Southwest Keystone Opportunity Zone. That zone includes all of the local projects except the Clinton site. Thursday's announcement was good news for Ford City officials, who have struggled for years to redevelop the former PPG site, a 47-acre site with a few nearby properties. Council president Homer Pendleton said the borough aims to lure light industrial factories, such as tool-and-die or high-tech facilities. "It's going to create jobs," he said. "It gives us the opportunity to keep some of the young people here. And it would also create the tax base, even though we wouldn't get anything for the next 12 years." The borough is pursuing grants to complete the infrastructure at the site, estimated to cost about $350,000. It hopes PPG donates the land. The 207-acre West Deer site, which includes the former West Penn Airport and surrounding properties, will be developed as an "industrial air park," which will have access to both air and railroad transportation. "(Development) is going to be enhanced on manufacturing and distributing businesses," said West Deer Supervisor George Hollibaugh. The infrastructure there is ready, except for the access to the proposed Frazer mall interchange to the Allegheny Valley Expressway, he said. Construction of the first business, beside the existing airport, could start in a few months. About a dozen businesses are interested, he said. The South Buffalo site, the 300-acre Slate Lick Industrial Park, is in the final engineering stage. Construction could begin in late summer or early fall, said Jeff Miller, economic development coordinator for Armstrong County Department of Planning and Development. The site will include industrial, residential, retail and possibly recreational developments. The site will be developed in six phases, with the first four phases to cost about $22 million. Several businesses have already shown interest in moving in. The development of the Apollo site is still in its infancy. "That definitely is not a site ready to go today," Miller said. Officials of Apollo are working with the county about what to do with the 19-acre former Babcock & Wilcox site. Officials who are in charge of the Clinton site -- 425-acre USX property -- were not available for comment Thursday.