FALLS TOWNSHIP >> In an effort to breathe new life into 1,800 acres of brown fields and bring thousands of new jobs to the region, the Falls Township Board of Supervisors approved several actions to spur continued progress at the U.S. Steel property during its Dec. 21 virtual meeting.
The Falls Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance designating the bulk of the U.S. Steel property as a Keystone Opportunity Investment Zone. If affirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the designation would exempt NorthPoint Development from taxes for a 15-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and ending on Dec. 31, 2035.
While NorthPoint would not be required to pay real estate taxes as part of the KOIZ designation, the Falls Supervisors approved a payment in lieu of tax agreement which requires the developer to pay 110 percent of the “taxes that are owed at this time,” according to township attorney Mike Clarke.
Pennsbury School Board voted unanimously to support the KOIZ designation during its Dec. 17 meeting. The Bucks County Commissioners will hold a special meeting on Dec. 22 to vote on the designation.
For the state to consider the KOIZ designation, all three taxing authorities – the municipality, school district and county government – must first support it. Should the Bucks County Commissioners vote in favor of the KOIZ designation, NorthPoint would begin paying 110 percent of real estate taxes to each of the three taxing authorities in 2021, according to Clarke.
The amount of real estate taxes could increase based on potential tax increases from each of the three taxing authorities, but not as a result of reassessments during the 15-year period, Clarke said.
The KOIZ designation would be comprised of the former Fairless Works U.S. Steel site, which first opened in 1952. The site closed in 2001 and has largely sat vacant ever since.
State Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10), of Lower Makefield Township, called on local officials to approve the KOIZ designation.
“I understand the importance and urgency in bringing both short-term construction and long-term, permanent jobs to our community,” Sen. Santarsiero told the school board, adding that the 1,846-acre redevelopment project would create hundreds of construction jobs and 5,000 to 10,000 permanent jobs. “At a time when so many are without work, this project will breathe new life into our local economy and help thousands of residents secure gainful employment.”
On Dec. 21, Sen. Santarsiero told the Supervisors that “it’s been a struggle to find an overall plan for that site.”
In addition to the annual payment in lieu of taxes, Supervisors Chairman Jeff Dence said NorthPoint Development would also contribute to police and fire service, as well as road maintenance. He touted the developer’s “big investment,” which includes an estimated $40-$45 million in remediation efforts as part of the $1.5 billion redevelopment to construct 10 million square feet of light industrial warehouses.
“No more Elcons,” Dence said. “No more heavy industrial.”
Supervisor John Palmer said NorthPoint is working to “make a brown space green again.”
In other business, the Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution recognizing the Morrisville Municipal Authority as the provider of all water and sanitary sewer related utilities serving the 1,846-acre property.
Currently, U.S. Steel provides the water and sewer services for the site. With the impending sale to NorthPoint, water and sewer utility would be transferred to Morrisville Municipal Authority.
Dence said that while the transfer will be “beneficial” to the Township of Falls Authority financially, the Authority could not provide service since it does not have a water and sewer treatment plant.
As part of the massive redevelopment, NorthPoint Development intends to rename the Keystone Industrial Port Complex the Keystone Trade Center.
Based on a sketch plan the Falls Supervisors reviewed earlier this month, the multiple phase project consists of constructing 20 or more state-of-the-art industrial warehouse buildings for companies like GM, Amazon, Chewy, Walmart, UPS, FedEx and more to Falls Township.