Packerton Yards up for sale
The former Packerton Yards property is up for sale.
During the Carbon County Commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board voted 2-0 to advertise the sale of the 71.54-acre property, which straddles Mahoning Township and Lehighton, with a starting bid of $300,000. Commissioner William O'Gurek abstained from the vote due to his employment at the Times News.
The commissioners planned to put a business park on the property but were never able to do it.
Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said the bids will likely be opened at the end of September, but no date has been officially set.
He said the county chose $300,000 as the minimum bid, because the property had previously been assessed at $285,000.
"It's been a long time coming," Nothstein said. "We certainly tried.
"Sometimes I think government gets in its own way of trying to get something good accomplished, and I think government, in this case, certainly did that in that it prevented a great project," Nothstein added, referring to Mahoning Township denying the plans for the industrialization of the site.
"It just didn't work out so it's time to move on.
"Whoever purchases that property is going to be faced with the same issues we had with the township; the Highway Occupancy Permit; the railroad issues and more. Hopefully the successful bidder won't have as much trouble as we had and hopefully they can get it back on the tax rolls and create much- needed jobs for the county."
O'Gurek, who at first voted "yes" and then asked that his vote be changed to an abstention due to it dealing with advertising in the newspaper, said that the vote "got me thinking about my willingness to want to sell Packerton Yards like Wayne and Tom (Gerhard) do.
"We really did mean well," O'Gurek said. "We're hoping we can put the property back to good use."
He commended Nothstein and Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard, who took over the responsibility of the project when they took office in 2012.
"They had good intentions, too," O'Gurek said. "They tried but sadly they were unsuccessful, not because of their fault but they tried to give the project a chance since we were long into it and had the funding in place. It just didn't work out."
Nothstein added that the commissioners have put in some deed restrictions into the sale agreement that would prevent whoever buys the land from putting hazardous or harmful items on the property.
"We're all concerned about the environmental impacts," he said.
The deed restrictions include prohibiting the temporary or permanent storage of hazardous materials on the site; the use of regulated fill materials as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; and creating a transfer facility for solid waste. In addition the grantee must also comply with the remedial cleanup investigation report dated July 2010.
Gerhard addressed the regulated fill regulation, saying that "we're extremely concerned about the environment."
He said that the county has already turned down one potential buyer because they wanted to bring in regulated fill via rail from New York and New Jersey.
"We were concerned because they mix different materials (in the fill) and by Pennsylvania standards, it's legal," Gerhard said. "We didn't want to accept that."
O'Gurek added that Carbon County is "more concerned than our legislators and DEP" when it comes to regulated fill coming into the county.
"In Pennsylvania, fill can contain more elevated levels of heavy metals and organic compounds," he said. "By putting in deed restrictions the three of us are saying regardless of what DEP permits, we don't want it in Carbon County on that property."
The Packerton Business Park project officially came to an end in November 2013, when Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt upheld a January 2013 Carbon County Court of Common Pleas ruling that denied the county from developing county roads through the site.
At that time, the commissioners announced that they were not going to appeal the decision.
The county has been working to build the industrial park at the former rail yard since 2003. At the time commissioners said it would bring hundreds of jobs, as well as thousands in tax revenue.