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Palmerton West Plant to become high tech office park

  • TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS George Petrole, chief operating officer for Northface Development, LLC, Lehighton, informs Palmerton Area School Board on Tuesday of his intentions to purchase the abandoned Palmerton West Plant and convert it into a 100-acre…
    TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS George Petrole, chief operating officer for Northface Development, LLC, Lehighton, informs Palmerton Area School Board on Tuesday of his intentions to purchase the abandoned Palmerton West Plant and convert it into a 100-acre-plus sustainable high tech office park that could create thousands of jobs to the area.
Published December 16. 2009 05:00PM

A Lehighton business plans to purchase the bereft Palmerton West Plant and convert it into a 100-acre-plus sustainable high tech office park that could create thousands of jobs.

Also as part of the acquisition, a 3-acre parcel of the site may eventually be dedicated to the borough for use of a new fire station, Palmerton Area School Board members were told on Tuesday.

George Petrole, chief operating officer for Northface Development, LLC, Lehighton, told the board of his intention to develop the former Palmerton West Plant Site at 1120 Mauch Chunk Road.

In accordance with Petrole's request, the board unanimously agreed to adopt a resolution compromising certain real estate taxes for buildings and parcels of real property, formerly part of the Palmerton Zinc Company Holdings.

Petrole said the area is but a smaller parcel known commonly as the Palmerton Zinc West that is commonly associated with the Palmerton Superfund Site.

However, Petrole said the purchase involves only the West Plant Site, containing 120 acres, plus or minus, and should not be confused with any other properties referred to or referenced to in many of the documents concerning the current or former holdings of Horsehead Company, Horsehead Resources, or any other affiliate of the former New Jersey Zinc family of companies.

Petrole said the property will be remediated following protocols recommended under the One Cleanup Program by the state Environmental Protection Agency, with the principal point of contact being the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Cleanup Program Manager.

Petrole said representatives of EPA's Region III CERCLA Program consulted with the Region's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as DEP. Through their agreement to coordinate environmental cleanups under the One Cleanup Program, they have made clear stipulations as to the remediation of the site and the use of DEP's Land Recycling Program, he said.

Following a submission by Environ in August of 2009 of a Notice of Intent to Remediate and Remedial Investigation Report, as well as a meeting on Nov. 16 with representatives from the EPA, DEP, Carbon County Conservation District, CBS/ Viacom, Northface and Phase III, Petrole said it was agreed that the recommended remediation of the entire site would be "capping by imported regulated fill materials [as permitted by DEP]."

"After the proper grades and geotechnical parameters are met, we will then develop the site into a 100-plus-acre sustainable high tech office park," Petrole said. "We have no intention of importing, storing, treating, generating, or having any hazardous materials usage at this site. We do not intend to ask for ongoing tax abatement of the site, and we do not intend to drill any additional wells on the property, nor do we intend to disturb any of the existing soil on the site. We do intend to demolish the existing buildings on the property, as they are of no future value. The spoils from the demolition, concrete, brick, and block materials, will be crushed and used as fill materials in the cap construction."

Petrole said his company will purchase the property "out of abandonment in bankruptcy."

The liquidating entities have agreed and presented for motion to the Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York, the company's Agreement of Sale for the Judge to act upon that will allow the property to be taken out of abandonment and sold to his company, Petrole said. That motion was granted on Dec. 3, and the company currently awaits closing, he said.

The property has been in abandonment since Aug. 19, 2002, when the seller filed a Voluntary Petition for Relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, Petrole said.

"We do not intend to rent any portion of the property until it is fully remediated and improved," he said.

Petrole said the company anticipates the site will accommodate up to 27 separate building lots containing office and technology space of about 235,000 square feet, warehouse space of 213,000 square feet, and paved parking areas totaling 1,745,000 square feet.

"When completed, the park will have sealed more than 2,548,000 square feet of land with building footprint, parking and lineal roadway," he said. "Slightly more than 53 percent of the site will be permanently capped by these impermeable improvements."

In addition, Petrole said it's the "intent of Northface Development and Palmerton Borough to enter into an agreement to redefine and relocate certain Rights of Way and utility routes serving industrial and potable water clients remaining on the site as well as the dedication of a 3-plus-acre parcel of the site for use as a new fire station for the Borough of Palmerton."

Petrole said the company's redevelopment efforts "are expected to bring thousands of jobs to the area, create an ongoing increased tax base for the authorities involved, and our plan intends to use as much of the 120-plus-acres as is possible for development."

"Our construction methods will use vertical green technologies available to us at the time of development to create a sustainable LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified business environment," he said. "We anticipate such a development will mitigate the need for tax abatement plans, as they are replaced by sustainability credits and available Green Initiative Financing for the incoming businesses, as well as decreased operational overheads."

Petrole said the company has completed a Phase I investigation through the Environ Coroporation, and completed the 'all appropriate inquires' as required by CERCLA for the property.

He said the company is aware of a full "Remedial Site Characterization Investigation Report" that has been submitted to the state by CBS dated Jan. 29, 2009, as well as the "Notice of Intent to Remediate" that was filed with the state by CBS.

In addition, Petrole said the company is also aware, and has a copy of, the consent decree that was signed by the responsible parties regarding the site dated Nov. 13, 1995, along with all of its updates, as well as a copy of the "Joinder of Declarations of Restrictive Covenants" dated March 9, 2004 filed in and for the County of Carbon, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"We are currently in the process of NPDES submissions for immediate implementation of our remediation plans, which will commence with the beginning of 2010," he said. "We want to get started as soon as possible."

But, Petrole noted the capping process will "take years" to complete.

"We've spoken to development people; there is interest," he said. "Our next step is to secure the property and begin the remediation process."

Petrole said copies of the sketch plans are available upon request.

"We have every intention of creatively redeveloping this highly visible and historic location," he said. "The transformation of the site from what has long been a blight on our community to a state-of-the-art vertically green high tech business park will be one of the first of its kind in the country and will bring Carbon County out of the Industrial Age and into the Age of Technology."

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