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Alpine Rose still on track

Published March 08. 2013 05:03PM

It's been a long and winding road for a proposed motor sports club in Eldred Township. The owners of the Alpine Rose Motorsports Club, Antonio Matinho and his son, Paul Matinho, made another lap toward the finish line at this week's Eldred Township supervisors' meeting.

Its land development plan's extension was due to end May 24, 2013. The July 2010 Permit Extension Act provides the automatic extension of various municipal approvals through July 2, 2013. The Act was subsequently amended to extend the extension period through July 2, 2016. Alpine Rose's attorney, Emil W. Kantra II of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, asked the supervisors to grant that extension. On a motion made by supervisor vice-president Gretchen Gannon Petit to approve the extension, seconded by supervisor/secretary Sharon Solt, it was approved, 3-0.

The Matinhos are gearing up for the next lap. They're just waiting to get all their finances together.

Alpine Rose passed its last obstacle when the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the PA Department of Environmental Protection and Alpine Motorsports, affirming the Environmental Hearing Board's ruling of Aug. 25, 2011.

Alpine Motorsports has won every lawsuit the Blue Mountain Preservation Association (BMPA) has brought to court.

"Alpine now has everything they need to move forward. As part of the land development process in 2005, they now have to provide the township with an updated development agreement with a cost estimate, because obviously those prices have changed, and a performance bond," the township's solicitor, Michael Kaspszyk previously said.

The proposed road course for high-end sports cars has hit several bumps over the last 12 years.

Richard Muller, Jr., a Reading developer, purchased 360 acres on the Blue Mountain in Smith Gap in June 2001 for $1.6 million. His vision was for a $20 million mountainside resort that would cover about 150 acres to include a 2.8 mile road course, featuring garages, a car wash and self-service fuel station. There was to be recreational facilities like a welcome center, clubhouse with library, movie theater, game room, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pool, gardens, picnic area and a two-mile fitness trail.

But a group of local residents and environmentalists, which included the Sierra Club, put the brakes on Muller proceeding forward. Led by Frank and Marion O'Donnell, property owners next to Muller's 360 acres, they formed the Blue Mountain Preservation Association (PMPA) late in 2001, citing noise and pollution concerns. They said that a portion of the road-course would be only 100 feet away from their property.

The Appalachian Trail Conference also objected to the building of the road-course, stating it would be about a half-mile away from the trail.

Previously reported, Muller said their concerns were based on unmuffled, professional race cars but he maintained that no unmuffled cars would be allowed on the course and that sound-dampening walls and earthen berms would limit the noise to five decibels over the ambient, or existing, sound level.

Another BMPA concern was the impact it would have on the wildlife and contamination of the Aquaschicola Creek, a trout stream that runs along the base of the Blue Mountain, from run off sewage, fuel and other chemicals that would be stored at the facility. But the courts upheld the DEP's permits.

Here the story makes a right-hand turn.

Muller sold the property to Antonio Matinho and his son, Paul Matinho. Antonio is the publisher and director of the LusoAmericano Portuguese language newspaper based in Newark, NJ. Mr. Matinho was an associate engineer in research and development with Weston Instruments and RCA. Starting in the 1970s, his scope of entrepreneurial activities expanded into the fields of construction, real estate, publishing and banking. Presently he is a founding Board Member of Community First Bank based in Somerset, NJ. Mr. Matinho is an avid auto enthusiast and car collector. He and his wife reside in Bedminster, NJ.

Paul Matinho is the third generation owner/operations director of the family-owned LusoAmericano newspaper. He graduated from Boston College in 1986 and Rutgers Law School in 1989. He is married with three children.

Paul Matinho said Wednesday night that they plan to move forward with the project just as soon as they have all their finances together.

"We're close," he said.

When asked if they were counting on the Tax Increment Funding loan they applied for through the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation last year, Paul Matinho said, "It would be nice to have, but if we don't get it, it won't affect us from moving forward."

TIF is a public financing method that is used for subsidizing redevelopment, infrastructure and other community-improvement projects.

The amount of the loan would be somewhere between $10-15 million for the infrastructure, which would not include the cost of the buildings or the track.

Michelle Bisbing, director of marketing for Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation, explained at the Oct. 3, 2012 meeting that Eldred would continue receiving the same amount of taxes it receives now. After the building takes place, the taxes will go up. The difference would go to the TIF account toward paying off the loan. But, the township, school district and the county (all taxing bodies) must agree to it. Each taxing body has to have someone on the TIF committee. Eldred's supervisors named Sharon Solt to that committee and Pleasant Valley School District named board member and Eldred resident, Steve Borger.

About 20 people attended that meeting and voiced their opposition to their tax dollars being used to fund a TIF loan for the initial building stages of the proposed Alpine Motorsports resort.

The Matinhos remain confident the project will be approved.

"We're going to get there," the senior Matinho said.

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