Fayette County commissioners continue to permit Fay-Penn economic development council to handle grants for the county
despite Fay-Penn's record of documented failure in keeping business in tax-abatement zones, and failure to attract any high-paying
job creating companies to tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones.
Commissioners' Meeting Minutes
Sorry, don't buy it. The new businesses are mostly those which have closed shop elsewhere in the county, or immediate
region, to move into the tax free zones.
the expanded housing plan in KOZs, already designated, was squashed in the last round of a zoning request by Fay-Penn/Crystal
Springs, yet remaining on the books was a provision that enabled some housing in the existing KOZs...
thankfully, the KOZ for that area should be expiring within a mere 3 years, but we have to be ever-watchful
for any extensions which may be granted under a new tax-free plan proposed by the Governor, or the state legislature.
Keep an eye on freshmen state legislators...
Fayette County woos new companies, but where will workers live?
By C.M. Mortimer
Sunday, April 8, 2007
In recent years, Fayette County has had success wooing new companies in technology, defense and homeland
security industries. Economic development officials say the county needs more workers with the right skills to keep growing.
But Fayette needs quality housing -- condominiums, townhouses or starter homes in good neighborhoods -- to attract workers,
their families and top managers.
"Fayette County is at the point where it needs to be looking at the type and quality of growth. We have to get rid of the
beggar mentality," said Michael W. Krajovic, president of the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, the agency charged with
adding employment opportunities in the mostly rural Southwest Pennsylvania county.
Enter Elliott Edelstein, a Monroeville housing developer who believes parts of Fayette County could become the next Cranberry
-- the Butler County community that is one of the fastest-growing in the state and home to 3,000 businesses.
Edelstein's Crystal Springs Investors is trying to develop 229 acres in Springhill Township and build 280 single-family
homes, which would make it the largest housing development in Fayette County in years. His group has an option on 625 acres
The kicker: the land in question is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, where generous tax breaks are available. Originally
intended to spur economic development -- not housing -- when it was created in 1998, the state program would give a homeowner
forgiveness from property taxes and state and local income taxes through 2013.
Edelstein has been negotiating with Fay-Penn, which owns the land. He estimates it will take about $11 million to develop
the site in the southwestern portion of the county and close to the fast-growing Morgantown, W.Va., area. Planning and zoning
approvals are in place, leaving financing as a final hurdle, officials said.
"This should increase our percentage of mid- and upper-level managers who can live in Fayette County. ... We would like
to see the project happen," Krajovic said.
Money saved by people who would live in the tax-free zone likely will be spent on their homes or in the community, he said.
Since no one will move into it until at least 2009 -- only 3 or 4 years of savings will be possible. "We certainly wouldn't
encourage a program that would give infinite benefits."
"This will be a gated community, and they will be quality homes. We'll have our own sewage treatment, tennis courts and
a park area. Later on, we'll put in a strip center to offer retail outlets," Edelstein said. Land will range from $70,000
to $75,000 for a half-acre, while houses will likely range from $250,000 to $275,000.
"The housing we plan is needed. Sophisticated companies don't want to move into an area where their employees don't want
to live," Edelstein said.
Krajovic said companies that are coming into Fayette County -- which as the lowest median household income among the 11
counties in Southwest Pennsylvania -- have problems recruiting highly skilled workers and that housing, or lack thereof, is
a hindrance to growth.
"It depends on the technology. We have no trouble filling entry-level positions. But once we get into specialized fields,
or engineering, it's been more difficult," said Karen Stiles, a spokeswoman at Argon ST in the Fayette County Business Park
in Georges Township.
Argon ST, of Fairfax, Va., employs about 94 workers at its Georges site and at an engineering and technical center in North
Union Township. It is a contract manufacturer for the Defense Department, particularly the Navy's surface ship torpedo defense
Parametric Technology Corp., a large, Massachusetts-based software company, has been luckier in finding workers since setting
up shop in Fayette in February 2006.
"The folks we're hiring are right out of college. We're bringing people on board and augmenting their skills," said David
Rossi, general manager of Parametric's solutions center, in the National City Bank building in Uniontown.
Rossi said the talent comes from area colleges: California University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, Indiana University
of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. He hopes to raise the employment level to 125 workers in 36 months.
County leaders say more and better housing will help.
There are 66,490 housing units in Fayette -- population 145,760 -- but more than one third were built in 1939 or earlier,
according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. In the past, the county has seen a combination of single-family and mobile homes
built, county figures show. Even last year, of housing permits issued in 32 of the county's 42 municipalities, there were
122 mobile homes added and 103 traditionally built single-family houses. In addition, there were 25 modular homes and 9 manufactured
Yet, there are signs that the housing market is changing. Through March, permits were issued for 32 single-family houses
and 9 mobile homes, plus one modular house.
"Workers employed at defense-related companies and at industrial parks are seeking higher quality single-family and patio-style
homes," said Eric Fulmer, chairman of Mullin & Lonergan Associates, a Pittsburgh consulting firm that did a housing study
in 2005 for the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County. The housing that is becoming available is being absorbed quickly,
The study showed the need for additional market-rate housing, in addition to lower-cost and subsidized housing for low-income
families, said Andrew French, executive director for the Fayette County Housing Consortium.
One development providing a mix of single-family, market-rate housing and low-income opportunities is Mountain View Estates
in Fairchance near Uniontown, said Ken Klein, president of Threshold Housing Development Corp.
The 44-unit development includes three-bedroom, single-family homes, including two-story, split-level and ranch models,
said Klein, the developer.
"We've sold 36 houses over the last three years, including to a number of young professionals, but most of them are local
people," he said.
"There is a need to build more homes in the county," said Keith Myers Jr., sales associate with Howard Hanna Myers Real
Estate in Fairchance. His company recently sold a 1,500-square-foot split entry home in Mountain View Estates for $160,000
to a move-up local buyer.
Fayette County does have pockets of upscale housing, particularly South Union Township and Wharton Township off Route 40
in the Summit Mountain area, says Jeff Burd, of Tall Timber Marketing Group, a Ross construction-market tracking and research
"It's a chicken and egg thing. What builder will look at Fayette County without demonstrable demand for housing?" Burd
That could change if Route 43, the Mon Valley Expressway, delivers promised growth, he said. Perryopolis and Perry Township,
located near Route 51, could benefit if residents in the South Hills area grow weary of Allegheny County's tax structure.
Another draw for more housing in Fayette is West Virginia University, said Bill Dietrich, head of construction for Coldwell
Banker Real Estate in Pittsburgh.
"The university is located in Morgantown, W.Va., and because the city has no zoning code, most of the buildable land is
gone," he said.
Fayette County is about a 10-minute drive from Morgantown and has the potential to become a successful housing area for
people associated with the university, he said.
He believes detached single-family housing, priced from $250,000 to $280,000, and townhouses, priced from $160,000 to $180,000
could be successfully built and sold in the county. ..
Thanks, Ken, adding to your fine commentary, isn't it just ludicrous that some Fayette Countians unable to meet tax obligations
face loss of their property, meanwhile those residents in a tax free zone don't face this same threat over their heads for
some possible 7 years? How is this constitutional continues to puzzle some, but not our Fayette County commissioners.
While two of the three recently rejected this new rezoning request, by Fay-Penn actually, the pair didn't opt to cast a nay
on the KOZ resolution/s passed by former boards of county commissioners?
Residential rezoning application rejected
By Chris Foreman
Friday, September 29, 2006
Fayette County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to deny Crystal Springs Investors' application to rezone
229 acres within a Keystone Opportunity Zone to expand a residential development plan.
Commissioners Vince Vicites and Angela Zimmerlink opposed the application, which requested the rezoning of four Springhill
Township parcels from agricultural-rural to medium-density residential. Commissioner Joe Hardy, the founder of the 84 Lumber
building supply company, voted to approve the rezoning.
Crystal Springs, of Monroeville, has been negotiating with Fay-Penn Economic Development Council to purchase the properties.
The existing zoning allows for single-family housing and duplexes, but Crystal Springs' representatives were hoping to include
multifamily housing in their project.
A KOZ is a 10-year designation in which a property buyer receives forgiveness on state and local taxes for an economic
In this case, those purchasing the homes also would receive an abatement on state and local income taxes until the KOZ
expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
Vicites reiterated yesterday that he is against using a KOZ for residential development. Zimmerlink has said she believes
it would create unfair competition between developers and residential homeowners.
Albert Gallatin School District, Springhill Township and the township's municipal authority supported the rezoning, which
Crystal Springs contends would have meant "considerable" more tax money for those entities.
Fayette commissioners adopt zoning ordinance
Poor get shafted again
I recently read of a proposal by Crystal Springs Investors Inc. of Monroeville to construct single- and multifamily homes
in a Keystone Opportunity Zone in Springhill Township. If this is done, anyone living in those homes would get more than just
a break from paying property taxes.
Homeowners would be exempt from paying the state personal income tax of 3.07 percent and local earned income tax of 1 percent.
For example, anyone earning $100,000 per year would save a combined $8,720 per year in taxes if they purchased a $300,000
home. Over the remaining seven years of KOZ status, that person's total tax savings would be $61,040.
The Fayette County median household income was $25,603 in 2003. Since Anchor Glass, one of the county's highest-paying
employers is gone, I would bet it is less now. The median house value was $63,900.
Why should people who are far above the average Joe in Fayette County and can afford a $300,000 home be pampered by making
them tax exempt?
Do you think this will benefit Fayette County or its tax-paying citizens? I don't think so. With school taxes going out
of sight, and none of the promised property tax relief from Harrisburg in
sight, is this a good idea? Who do you think will be made to make up for these exemptions? You and me, that's who, with
still higher taxes.
With so many residents of Fayette living on Social Security or working at slightly above minimum wage, and still paying
more taxes than they can afford, this proposal is just another kick in the gut.
If a property owner making less than $20,000 a year is expected to pay taxes on time, why would any politician think it's
fair to let people who can afford a $300,000 home avoid taxes for seven to 10 years?
Too many of the poorer citizens can barely get by with the high cost of gas, heating oil, food, medicine and the other
costs of running a household, but most still pay their taxes. Do we need politicians who think they have to grant people tax
exemptions so they'll buy these proposed $300,000 houses?
Sure Crystal Springs Investors Inc. is going to make money, but I wonder why Springhill supervisors are so enthused about
This might bring more people to the county and township, but it might just relocate some county residents too. Do we need
more residents if we don't have enough good-paying jobs for the ones that are here now? They will be using township and county
resources, but they won't be paying taxes. Will that help or hurt the township and the county? If only as much effort was
bring better jobs into the county.
Just what is being done to lower taxes for the poor taxpayers in Fayette County? Has anyone heard of such a thing as lowering
taxes for the truly needy, let alone exempting them from taxes? I didn't think so.
We the poor will continue to finance those who can afford to pay their own way unless we stand up to this and other discriminatory
projects in the county, state and nation and let our politicians know we have had enough.
I'm just a retired factory worker who worked for 38 years for the same company. I guess I'm just not smart enough to understand
how this proposal will help our county. I don't know about you, but it does make me mad to think that the poor working families
are being shafted again.
Housing proposal draws opposition
By Chris Foreman
September 18, 2006
An Allegheny County development group aims to build a residential community in a Keystone Opportunity Zone
in Fayette County, although some county officials oppose a zoning request that would expand the project.
Crystal Springs Investors, of Monroeville, is negotiating with the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council to buy 854 acres
in Springhill Township. The property is part of the largest of 22 county KOZs and would become the first to feature private
According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, there are only four residential KOZs in the state.
A KOZ is a 10-year designation in which a property buyer receives forgiveness on state and local taxes for an economic development
In this case, those purchasing the homes also would receive tax breaks until the KOZ expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
Crystal Springs is seeking a reclassification of 229 acres from agricultural to residential, which would allow it to develop
multifamily housing, a business complex and a fitness center in a two-phase plan.
The existing zoning permits single-family units, duplexes and a golf course, which had been proposed in a previous plan.
The development group outlined its proposal at a zoning hearing last month, but two of the three county commissioners have
indicated they will deny the rezoning request at their Sept. 28 regular meeting.
While Crystal Springs' representatives say the denial will cost the county millions, Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and
Vincent Vicites insist the proposal is the wrong use for the land.
Zimmerlink, the board's chairwoman, said Fay-Penn announced its intentions in 1999 to create KOZs to either induce businesses
to expand or to entice new businesses to move to Fayette.
Although residential development in KOZs is permitted, she said the zoning request is contradictory to the intended use
"You have to look at the fact that this decision would not only create unfair competition between developers and home builders,
but also between residential home owners," she said.
Vicites was outvoted 2-1 in 2003 when then-commissioners Ron Nehls and Sean Cavanagh approved the KOZ designation for the
Vicites said he would support Crystal Springs' development if it were not in a KOZ, but he believes the designation should
be reserved for industrial development and job creation.
"Fundamentally, I don't think it's fair with residential KOZ," he said. "If one person should have to pay residential taxes,
everybody should have to."
The third commissioner, Joe Hardy, the founder of the 84 Lumber building supply company, was not available for comment.
The opposition by Zimmerlink and Vicites doesn't kill the project, though.
With the existing zoning, Crystal Springs intends to revamp its master plan to feature fewer, but more expensive. houses
for single families.
Crystal Springs' vice president, Elliott Edelstein, noted the county's status as one of the poorest in Pennsylvania.
"Does Fayette County really want development?" he said. "We're looking at this as the seed of development for Fayette County.
This could be the next Cranberry."
In the rezoning request, Edelstein said Crystal Springs anticipated spending $3.5 million for the land to build 1,129 housing
units in two phases. Edelstein estimated the development could infuse $50 million of disposable income annually into the county's
economy, with the homebuyers coming from the Morgantown, W.Va., and Pittsburgh areas.
Despite the tax breaks, the Albert Gallatin School District, Springhill Township and the township's municipal authority
support the rezoning and the proposed project.
Under a scaled-down plan, those entities could receive one-third to one-half less in taxes from the development, Edelstein
While some residents have criticized the proposal because of the tax breaks, Edelstein noted that the township, school
and county haven't received any taxes while the property has been a KOZ.
He said an official denial of the rezoning could mean the development of a gated community in which about 300 homes would
cost around $400,000 or $500,000.
"It's not a matter of something or nothing," Edelstein said. "It's 'A' or 'B.'"
"As long as there's going to be a residential community there, they might as well benefit the most. That's what we're trying
to do here."
Chris Foreman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-425-2338.
Headline Not Really The Gist of it all
In fact, it appears on principle, the Springhill Township supervisors are opposed to housing in a tax-free KOZ zone!
Springhill Township supervisors defend construction plans
Springhill Township supervisors are defending their role in a plan to build hundreds of homes in a tax-free
Keystone Opportunity Zone in their township.
The supervisor said they were merely asked by the developer to chose which one of two housing plans they
preferred, and not if they were in favor of the development.
Crystal Springs Development Inc. of Monroeville is planning to build hundreds of homes on an 800-plus acre
piece of property near Gans, and is seeking a zoning change from the Fayette County commissioners for 229 acres to allow multi-family
units to be constructed along with the single family homes that are already permitted in the A1 zone.
township supervisor Brent Robinson, the supervisors informed the developers which one of two plans they favored, that being
one that will mean 500 new homes on the site, as opposed to 300 new homes, and were not asked if they were in favor of having
homes in a tax free zone.
"We have to decide what is best now," Robinson said, adding that the development is likely
going to move forward because the current zoning allows it.
Supervisor Damon Hellen pointed out that in 2003 when a
prior board of county commissioners rezoned the property from M1, light industrial to A1, agricultural rural to allow single
family homes to be constructed on the tax-free property, the supervisors were opposed to the zoning change. In a 2-1 vote,
former commissioners Sean M. Cavanagh and Ronald M. Nehls approved the zoning change, with current Commissioner Vincent A.
Vicites voting against it.
Robinson previously said he and his fellow supervisors have problems with singling out one
residential developer for special tax treatment. Anyone who would purchase a home in the KOZ would be exempt from paying property
taxes, as well as state and local income taxes. As it now stands, the KOZ expires on the property at the end of 2013.
the time of the 2003 zoning change, a former group of investors was planning to build a golf course and build expensive, upscale
homes. That proposal never came to fruition, and the present Crystal Springs development group is now planning to develop
the property, currently owned by the Fay Penn Economic Development Council.
Robinson said when the KOZ was adopted
in 1999, Fay Penn officials said they would never promote the KOZ as for residential development, and that stance has apparently
"It leaves a bad taste in residents mouth," Robinson said of the shift to promote residential development
in the KOZ by Fay Penn. "A lot of people don't understand we were against the rezoning change and we lost. But now it is advantageous
that we are in support of 500 new homes in the township.''
Larry Edelstein of Crystal Springs said the new proposed
development will likely move forward regardless of the rezoning decision by the commissioners. However, he said the developers
would prefer to institute Plan B, which would mean more homes and potentially a lot more money into the township. Plan B includes
the multi-family homes that would only be allowed if the zoning were changed to B1, as the developers are requesting. The
prices would range from $175,000 for garden apartments and quads, to $200,000 for townhouses and $300,000 each for single-family
If the rezoning is not approved by the commissioners, Edelstein said a version of the prior developers plan,
or Plan A will occur, with around 300 homes being constructed that would cost upwards of $500,000 each, and it would be likely
be a "gated community."
"We are committed to developing the site," Edelstein said. He said although property owners
may be getting tax breaks for five years, he really thinks in the long run it will benefit the community. The developers also
plan to build a sewage treatment plant and will give the three taxing bodies money generated from the sale of the homes as
a way to make up for lost tax revenue.
Edelstein said he understands the felling of inequity the township residents
are feeling because he is a Pennsylvania resident who must pay taxes, but added that they need to recognize that sometimes
you have to look toward the future rather than the present.
"I think this is really a good opportunity to see if the
KOZ can benefit an area and if it can be used as a catalyst to bring people in," Edelstein said.
in the area are opposed to the development, including Tammy Thompson of Point Marion, who wrote a letter to the commissioners
against the rezoning request. Thompson wrote that numerous township residents are against the development and are circulating
a petition against the development.
"In their current state, our crumbling infrastructure and additional of water lines/supply
are unable to support this type of development. How would the needed fundamental upgrades happen without raising the current
residents' taxes and utility rates? Current residents won't see a tax break, but an almost certain increase," Thompson wrote.
"As a current Springhill Township resident, I know of no one that can afford to have our taxes/utilities increased. If they
are Springhill Township residents, they need to pay all of their taxes too."
During a rezoning hearing before the county
commissioners, Commissioner Joseph A. Hardy III questioned the developers about the KOZ issue. Elliott Edelstein said he was
unsure if the KOZ were lifted, if the development would move forward. Commission Chairwoman Angela M. Zimmerlink has spoken
out against selective tax programs.
When Vicites voted against the previous rezoning request, he warned that a precedent
could be set that could later allow for additional developments to go into KOZ areas. Vicites said he didn't believe it was
fair to allow residential development in the KOZ. "My position hasn't changed. It is fundamentally not fair," Vicites said,
referring to allowing residential homeowners in KOZ to have tax breaks when every other residential homeowner in the county
has to pay property taxes.
The commissioners have agreed to make a decision on the rezoning request by Sept. 10.
ŠThe Herald Standard 2006
Recent 2006 developments
Article captures basics, but excludes comments made to the commissioners requesting the KOZ designation be revoked for
the acreage on which the housing development is to be located.
Developer makes case for zoning change
Crystal Springs Investors brought its case to the Fayette County commissioners Thursday, seeking to have the zoning changed
from agricultural to residential on 229 acres where it plans to build a housing development in a Keystone Opportunity Zone
in Springhill Township.
The zoning change is needed to allow the developer to construct multi-family homes, which they
claim are needed to make the project viable. The Monroeville developer plans to construct 1,129 houses in Springhill Township
on the tax-free land. Elliott M. Edelstein explained that the two-phase project would include a residential fitness center
and homes on one section, and manufacturing and retail on the other.
Currently, single-family homes would be permitted
on the property because former Commissioners Sean M. Cavanagh and Ronald M. Nehls voted for a zoning change from industrial
for a prior group of investors that planned to build a golf course and upscale homes. Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites, who
will vote on this request, voted against the prior zoning change.
Developer Elliott Edelstein said although the KOZ
status does not require the property owners to pay real estate taxes until the expiration of the designation several years
from now, plans are to put an amount of $550 into a trust fund to pay the three taxing bodies a portion of the tax amount
each time a lot is sold. Lawrence Edelstein said although property taxes are not paid on the property, transfer taxes are
paid each time the property is sold.
Elliott Edelstein claimed that Albert Gallatin Area School District would receive
a 77 percent increase in revenue from the development, for only a 10 to 11 percent increase in student population. Plans are
to construct a sewage treatment plant for the development. He estimated that $50 million in disposal income could be used
in the area.
Elliott Edelstein said the homes would cost approximately $300,000 each for single-family units, $200,000
each for townhouses and $175,000 each for quad units and garden apartments. "I cannot see a down side," he said. Elliott Edelstein
said as a developer he has bent over backwards to try to get what people need, adding that the township supervisors and the
school board are in favor of the project.
Phase I will include 529 units, including 242 single family homes,; 116 townhouses,
52 garden style apartments and 112 quads.
Commissioner Joseph A. Hardy asked if eliminating the KOZ designation would
still make the project attractive. When Elliott Edelstein responded that the project would not be nearly as attractive if
the land were not in a KOZ, Hardy said, "The KOZ is the engine running this thing."
Vicites pointed out that most KOZ
land is industrial and commercial throughout the state. He said when the prior board of commissioners originally approved
the KOZ designation throughout the county, it was sold by Fay Penn Economic Development Council as being for industrial use
Elliott Edelstein said the developers would agree to have the KOZ designation expire after 2013 even if it is
extended by the state.
A roomful of concerned residents attended the public hearing, most against the development because
those purchasing homes would not have to pay property taxes until 2013.
Paul Dunham said he voted against the KOZ as
a township supervisor in 1999. He said he has paid taxes all his life and it is unfair to give tax breaks only to some individuals.
Kristin Dunham said as an adjoining property owner, she has not been informed of the project, asking how much the
developer will make on the project.
Elliott Edelstein said they project to earn $20 million on the project.
Morris said she has two rental properties and she would love for them to be in the KOZ.
Vicites clarified that the
developers can build single-family homes and duplexes on the property as it is currently zoned. However, Elliott Edelstein
said if they go forward only with single-family homes, the revenues would be diminished, and he's unsure if the project would
be doable without the zoning change permitting multi-family units.
Faye Menhart said the area doesn't need more houses,
it needs more jobs.
The Edelsteins said building the homes would make the need for businesses to locate in the other
phase, although some of those in attendance disputed that saying people would still drive to Morgantown to shop.
two individuals spoke in favor of the project.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the developers asked the commissioners
to make a decision prior to Sept. 10.
ŠThe Herald Standard 2006
Three years ago Fayette County Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites had this to say in voting against the rezoning
of 706 acres of tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone land in Springhill Township: "I just can't vote for this. My convictions
are strong on this."
Fueling Vicites' position at that time was his opposition to including residential construction in a KOZ,
which he felt would be unfair to other homeowners who would not have the luxury of escaping real estate taxes through 2014.
Vicites was outvoted 2-1, however, and Crystal Springs Properties Inc. got the zoning it wanted for a promised $400 million
mega-development built around two proposed 18-hole golf courses.
resorts and more in KOZs around Pennsylvania
Demand listings of all private properties and ownership of residential houses that are located in a KOZ
Resort developer plans multi-million dollar project in Keystone Opportunity Zone. Meanwhile, other resort developers
are locked out of the same tax-exemptions to be afforded KOZ residential residents/developer/business park residents