FORD CITY – Borough Council last night approved an extension for the current Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) that is located on 42 acres of the former PPG property.
The KOZ gives developers tax incentives and free property taxes during the period the property is designated KOZ – normally ten years.
Council Vice-President Tyson Klukan explained the property limitations.
“Obviously that brown field has been vacant for years. Currently it is on our website for sale or lease. (We are) entertaining any options if someone wants to buy it. It is not subdivided at all. You have 42.5 acres of land down there currently zoned industrial. Obviously with it zoned industrial right now, there are some issues within the deed that you cannot put certain businesses on there because it is set in the deed.”
Klukan said the problem with lack of interest in the property hinges on the fact no one has been actively selling it.
“It hasn’t been properly marketed that way. So coming in with the new (comprehensive) plan I’d like to hopefully market that better with the comprehensive plan we are updating.”
Klukan said that because the ground contains potential contamination if the topsoil was unearthed, it raises the cost of building on it.
“You can dig into the brown field, but there are certain limitations of how deep you can dig. There are certain requirements in certain areas of the brown field. It’s currently Act 2, which means it is environmentally safe, but if someone wants to do a full reclamation of that whole property, it’s going to cost millions to dig deeper, but that is something a private investor would want to look at. It would be up to them.”
Previous councils had several local persons wanting to develop the property, but never acted upon it.
“There was interest in businesses wanting to put in down there. Those conversations I obviously don’t know what was said,” Klukan said. “I wish those would be back on the table or those businesses that were interested would have that conversation again. That was past administration.”
Klukan said he envisions several uses for the property.
“I would like to see some incubators and manufacturing – maybe a machine shop or robotics. But I would like to see the energy sector. With the Shell plant being built in Beaver County, there will be a lot of spin-offs and they are looking for flat land.”
Ford City has never pursued creating a water front similar to other communities along the Allegheny. That is something Klukan said should be explored.
“Ford City does need access to the river. That’s going to take either grant funding or private investment as well. It’s going to be tough down on the lower section because you have that concrete wall but I am sure there is a way somewhere along that river bank from Dogtown down to the Veteran’s Bridge to put in some kind of access to the river.”
Klukan dispelled rumors that a hotel, resort or casino has been proposed for the property.
Now that Ford City has authorized the extension of the term of the KOZ, it must also be approved by the Armstrong School District and the County of Armstrong.