The Packerton Yards development project is moving forward, Carbon County officials say.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said the county needs to apply for a grant extension for the Packerton Yards Industrial Park project. The project is planned for the 59-acre site that straddles Mahoning Township and Lehighton, which was purchased by the last administration on Feb. 25, 2005.
He noted that in addition to grant deadlines, the county is facing numerous issues including delays with obtaining the highway occupancy permit, resolving problems with Mahoning Township, and extending the PUC railroad crossing permit that have forced the project's start date to be delayed for over a year.
Nothstein and Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard have voiced over the last few months, during their campaign and after the election, that they would like to sell the property rather than develop it.
But, Nothstein said yesterday, that the county is "stuck with it," and therefore plans to proceed with obtaining access to the site.
"It's going to be very difficult to sell that project unless we have access to it," Nothstein said, pointing out that he was against this project from the time the former board purchased the property. "We're stuck with it, so we've got to deal with it now."
Nothstein said that after all permits are obtained and the access to the site from Route 209 is completed, the majority board plans to try and sell the property to a developer for development.
"We're going to do what we can and move it along and try to get it out of the hands of the county as soon as possible and back on the tax rolls," he said, noting that the big obstacle is "who is going to come in and invest in that property when they can't even get to it."
"What I would like to see, and I don't know if it can or will happen, is once we have access to it and the PUC crossing done, I would certainly like to see a development corporation come in and take the whole thing off our hands and proceed with it," Nothstein added. "Unfortunately, I don't see that happening."
Commissioner William O'Gurek then addressed his colleagues, saying that he is "thankful that the majority commissioners see the light in wanting to develop Packerton Yards."
He then said that the $5 million that the last administration secured was not wasted, like fliers sent out supporting Nothstein and Gerhard's campaign claimed, because of the new majority's decision to proceed with the project rather than sell.
Gerhard responded to O'Gurek's comments, saying "I think everyone is trying to get on the same page here. The holdup is the highway occupancy permit. Without that we can't do anything with the property. I think there was lack of communication before.
"I think it's important that everyone get on the same page and I think we all try to work together and I think there is a lot of people that are looking at what the commissioners are going to do with this project and how fast this project will move forward but that depends on PennDOT, Mahoning Township supervisors and all the other people involved in this project," Gerhard continued. "Cooperation goes a long way. Communication goes a long way. So we're putting all our efforts into trying to make this as easy as possible."
O'Gurek responded, saying that Gerhard's comments do not reflect what he had previously said about the Packerton Yards project at the Oct. 18 debate prior to the election.
Gerhard again addressed O'Gurek's comments, saying, "The message we're trying to get out is we're trying to work together. I'm certainly putting my effort to work together with you and certainly with Wayne. Whether you like the new majority commissioners here or not, we are certainly going to try and do our job and that is to move Carbon County in a new direction and do our job and represent everyone."
The Packerton Yards Industrial Park project has been in the works since 2003, when O'Gurek and then Commissioner Charles Getz began the plan to purchase the 59-acre site and create an industrial park for businesses.
After purchasing the land, the last administration then secured $5.1 million in state and federal funding for the development project, but had not been able to begin preparing the site because approval from Mahoning Township; as well as obtaining a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT, were still needed.
This past Monday, Nothstein went before the Mahoning Township supervisors and asked to create a partnership to help move this project forward.
At that meeting, the supervisors stressed the need to be included in the matters surrounding the project, which deals with land in the township.
Nothstein agreed and said that would not be a problem.