white township sign

Indiana County, Indiana Area School District and the White Township Board of Supervisors are trying again to get a 10-year extension of a Keystone Opportunity Zone tax break for investments in most of the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park.

“We have an opportunity if we get an application in by the end of the month, Oct. 1 in fact, to extend the KOZ for another 10 years on the vacant parcels,” Byron G. Stauffer Jr., executive director of the county Office of Planning & Development, told the board Wednesday night.

“The benefits of the program are 100 percent tax abatement,” Stauffer said. “Businesses that get approved in the program can also get some state incentives.”

However, an application last year to extend the KOZ for 187.31 acres in Windy Ridge was rejected by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. It was one of two applications submitted by Indiana County, the other being for Corporate Campus Business Park in Burrell Township.

“That one was approved, and it was essentially the same application” as that for Windy Ridge, Stauffer said.

So the county and its partners are focusing on 138.37 acres that the Indiana County Development Corporation purchased for Windy Ridge.

“I’m seeking your approval in terms of advertising and then I would come back in two weeks and at that point the county commissioners would consider their ordinance, and the school board, and you would be the final approval, if you so desire, to support this initiative,” Stauffer said.

That covers “currently vacant lots” there, he said, and does not include Urban Outfitters Inc. or Creps United Publications.

“There are no buildings on any of those parcels,” the county planning director said.

“If this is approved, when does the 10-year period start?” Supervisor Eugene Gemmell asked.

“Jan. 1 of 2020,” Stauffer said.

The county found other breaks for Urban Outfitters, which is building a distribution center at Windy Ridge.

“We were able to use some other programs to try to help Urban, so that parcel will go on the tax rolls,” Stauffer said. He said they involved other state tax breaks that do not involve getting local approval.

Supervisor Ted Kuckuck moved to advertise a new KOZ ordinance and Supervisor Gail McCauley seconded it, but there isn’t enough time for the ordinance to be considered at the next regular board meeting Sept. 26.

“That doesn’t meet code, advertising-wise, by the next meeting,” township Manager Milt Lady said.

So the board will vote Sept. 26 to hold a special meeting, sometime during the day on Sept. 30. Would there be enough time to get an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development?

“That’s fine,” Stauffer said. “I can overnight it.”

Stauffer also sat in with the board for most of what became a 68-minute executive session, after which the supervisors came back to approve a consulting agreement the township had negotiated over the past six months to provide advice about properties owned by the township.

Lady said the township talked to two or three potential consultants before deciding on Mike Lawer and Millstone Land Management LLC of Marion Center.

Solicitor Michael S. Delaney said Millstone would manage township-owned properties such as White Township’s parks.

He said Millstone would utilize the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to assist with handling the township’s timber lands, and oversee the township parks where invasive species of plants have been a problem.

Board Chairman George Lenz said invasive species of plants — specifically, Japanese knotweed — can be seen outside the township municipal building, along the bank of McCarthy Run that flows between the building and Indian Springs Road.

The consulting agreement does not include structures such as the municipal building, Lady said.