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September 25, 2013

North Beaver site gets Keystone designation

NEW CASTLE — As 250 acres return to tax rolls next year, 151 more will become in an effort toward economic development.

A portion of former farmland in North Beaver Township is being designated as Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone, meaning the acreage, deemed prime for business development, will be exempt from all taxes for 10 years.

The Lawrence County commissioners Tuesday approved the designation, which already had been approved by the township supervisors. Chairman Dan Vogler voted by phone from Harrisburg.

Linda Nitch, Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. executive director, presented the designation proposal for the Harry Werner property, which fronts Route 18 and borders Interstate 376 and Gilmore Road.

Now zoned industrial, the land formerly was part of a larger tract of a dairy farm that has 250 more acres.

Nitch said Tuesday the state’s deadline for submitting Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone proposals is Oct. 1. However, the Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission assembles one application for northwestern Pennsylvania and this is to be included. The deadline to send that in is Wednesday, she said.

“This is an unoccupied and under-utilized site,” Nitch said, which meets the state’s Keystone zone criteria Werner is marketing it for development.

To date, 800 acres in the county are designated Keystone zones, making them tax-exempt for 13 years. That designation on several properties totaling 250 acres will expire Dec. 31. Occupants of those properties then will resume paying taxes.

The Werner property’s new designation, under new laws, will be for 10 years.

The Keystone Opportunity tax breaks have helped to develop business and industry at various sites in the county, Nitch said.

“We’ve felt for some time now that this (Werner) site would be attractive for industrial uses,” she said, “especially with the possibility of a cracker plant in Monaca.”

She noted its proximity to Interstate 376 is a strong selling point, and it is less than a mile from the New Castle sewage treatment plant, near to natural gas lines and a public water hookup is only half a mile away.

“Are we putting the cart before the horse?” Commissioner Steve Craig asked Nitch, noting there is no development plan for the property and “it’s just raw land.”

His concern was that the county is giving away taxes for a potential industry that may not need that tax break, he said.

Nitch countered that the chance for the designation is now.

She pointed out the county would be giving up only $609 per year in property taxes on the undeveloped land. It also would forego taxes for the remaining years for any new development. The designation would go from Jan. 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2023.

The property owners and/or developers would be exempt from property, earned income and net profits taxes and business privilege and mercantile taxes.

Nitch said no companies have expressed interested in the Werner land yet.

“That property has been in the limelight for 10 to 12 years,” Commissioner Bob Del Signore commented.

Craig noted, “It’s the best industrial property in the county.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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