Redevelopment Task Force

Monday, December 17, 2018 | Warren, PA – The Warren County Redevelopment Task Force was started in 2017 by a Resolution adopted by the Warren County Board of Commissioners with the general directive to produce a report with recommendations for the County to improve property management and redevelopment in the region. The Redevelopment Task Force finished its research and proposals and has released a 75-page comprehensive report which was reviewed and adopted at a recent Public Commissioners Meeting following a presentation by Commissioner Jeff Eggleston, the Taskforce’s creator.

The Redevelopment Task Force was made up of eleven appointed members and six community members and operated under the mission statement: “To generate recommendations for Warren County to improve property management, property redevelopment, and housing availability. These recommendations will include actionable and achievable projects that can make an immediate impact on the efficiency of property related government programs and improve the aesthetics and economic viability of Warren County, Pennsylvania.”

The Taskforce was made up of a variety of public and private backgrounds including County Planning & Zoning, the Chamber of Business and Industry, the Housing Authority, municipal government, the Tax Claim Bureau, among others. The appointees included Jim Decker, Executive Director of the WCCBI; Paul Pascuzzi, chairman of the Blight Review Committee and Clarendon Borough Councilman; Andrea Stapleford, solicitor for the Redevelopment Authority (RDA); Phil Gilbert, Warren City Council Member and Director of the Tax Claim Bureau; Dan Glotz, director of County Planning & Zoning; John Shreve, Solicitor for Warren County; Reverend Matthew Scott, board member of Warren/Forest Economic Opportunity Council; and Commissioner Jeff Eggleston. All members have done an amazing job of bringing together bold and unique ideas and presenting a fresh perspective on how to improve redevelopment in Warren County.

Dan Glotz commented on the collaborative nature of the Task Force stating “I feel this project gave each participating agency an opportunity to better understand the roles and responsibilities of all of the partners.”

Warren County Redevelopment Task Force

There were also numerous community members and officials who contributed to the final report including Tonya Mitchell-Weston, CEO of the Housing Authority of Warren County; Pam Matve, Chief Clerk for Warren County; Lorri Dunlap, Grants Administrator for Warren County Planning and Zoning; Ken Hinton and Jessica Roudybush, both Code Enforcement Officers for the City of Warren; and Donna Zariczny of Inscale Architects.

The Task Force had five focus areas which generated five subcommittees including the Blighted Property Subcommittee, Tax Claim Subcommittee, Commercial Property Subcommittee, Public Housing Subcommittee, and Permitting/Code Enforcement/Zoning Subcommittee.

The Task Force met over six months in the summer of 2018 to gather information and brainstorm new ideas. During that time, subcommittees met and engaged in strategic work groups which used S.W.O.T. analysis and other techniques to identify problems and formulate fresh perspectives on addressing those problems. Each subcommittee drafted their own section of the report, with Commissioner Eggleston performing final edits to the text. The final version of the report was designed by Commissioner Eggleston with photographic contributions from Commissioner Ben Kafferlin and Jeremy Beckling of Stratos Drone Services.

Each area has several recommendations outlined in the report outlined here:

Blighted Property Subcommittee

The Task Force recommended creating a Comprehensive Blight Plan; document, promote and educate the public on the blight process; initiating and funding a land bank; organize a “knock down crew”; initiating “neighborhood initiative”; a comprehensive housing rehab program which could include USDA loans/grants, residential tax abatement programs, and other rehab incentive initiatives.

“Abandoned and blighted properties threaten the quality of life of the neighbors.” said Paul Pascuzzi, chairman of the Blighted Property Review Committee. “Bad things happen to empty houses.”

Tax Claim Bureau

To further inform and assist the community in its interactions with the Tax Claim Bureau, the Task Force recommends a comprehensive public relations campaign related o Tax Claim; promoting the “Right of First Refusal” to municipal officials; and increase director involvement in the community.

Phil Gilbert, Tax Claim Director, conveyed his enthusiasm over the report stating, “It’s nice to see initiative being taken to address the rising blight issue. We really need to think outside the box and consider other options in order to reduce blight. I can’t wait to see the projects implemented that come out of this study.”

Commercial Property

To address challenges with commercial properties the Redevelopment Task Force recommends the County creates a comprehensive property inventory to catalog all available commercial properties that can be addressed in Warren County; create a comprehensive property redevelopment incentive program which would include tax abatement programs among other options; and finally, a greater utilization of the PA Wilds Design Guide.

Public Housing

With issues of poverty in the community and limited quality housing options for economically challenged individuals, there is a general need to develop more public housing options, which falls in line with other focus areas of the report. The Task Force recommends first conducting a “real” needs assessment for the County which would outline the real legitimate needs within the County. Following the assessment, the Task Force recommends creating a “homeless to housed” program to address folks with chronic housing problems in the community; developing an “aging in place ad housing” program to help seniors stay in their homes and keep the up-to-date; and finally a rehab partnership program to give more options for individuals to recover from substance abuse disorder.

Permitting/Code Enforcement/Zoning

Instilling a level of uniformity within the County related to these items is a challenge. The Task Force, in order to inform the citizens and make building an easier, simpler process recommends a comprehensive public relations effort related to permitting and code enforcement; the creation of a government symposium to help inform local leaders; and finally, a concerted effort to recruit ne enforcement officers.

With the report available to influencers and municipal governments, the goal is to now prioritize the projects and recommendations listed and turn them into actions. For this, Commissioner Eggleston has authored a new Resolution to reauthorize the Warren County Redevelopment Task Force for another year with the mission of assisting in the implementation of the various recommendations. The group will have a minimum of eleven members, but there is room for many more, all to be appointed by the Commissioners Office. This reconstituted and revitalized Task Force will again meet regularly, as needed, to coordinate, research, and make proposals to move the overall mission of the Taskforce forward.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that’s been done by this group,” stated Commissioner Jeff Eggleston in conclusion, “This was a dedicated and productive fellowship. Now, with the report completed, we’ll turn to the work at hand which will involve carrying out the recommendations of the report. Not an easy task, but now we have a road map to address these issues.”

Download the Report at:

https://warrencountypa.net/redevelopment/

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please feel free to call (814-728-3403) or email (jeff.eggleston@warren-county.net) at your convenience.