INCD Challenges Mahoning Act Restriction | Local News
Developers of a proposed light industrial and commercial park for Mahoning Township while trying to remove a 99-year deed restriction before completing the purchase of the land.
Lawyers for the Regional Industrial Development Corp. of southwestern Pennsylvania filed for temporary and permanent injunctions while seeking limitation of the act prohibiting any operation that would be used primarily as a storage facility or as an assembly, manufacturing, distillation, refining, smelting or mining.
The 247-acre land sits off Baird Road, which was previously the site for a harness racing track and casino that never materialized.
A hearing on the act restriction issue is scheduled for June 8 at 9:30 a.m. in the courtroom of Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Cox.
RIDC is a private, not-for-profit corporation that acquires and develops underutilized properties to create jobs and bring the land into productive use. The company pays taxes on properties it develops and returns profits in more development, its attorney John Gotaskie Jr. told Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Cox in court April 13. .
Gotaskie filed a motion for a special preliminary and permanent injunction, seeking to remove the restriction on the use of the deed. However, lawyers representing the former landowners who had put the restriction in place appeared in court to challenge it.
Cox instructed the two parties to broker the deal. In the meantime, he has set the date to hear arguments in the case.
Gotaskie, of the Fox Rothschild LLP Pittsburgh law firm, presented the injunction motion in the Cox courtroom. In attendance were Mahoning Township Attorney Louis M. Perrotta, Lawrence County Attorney Jason Medure and three attorneys representing the former landowners – Kendra Schick Tabak, Carmen W. Shick and Kenneth R. Shick III. Representing Tabak was attorney John C. Hamilton; John J. DeCaro Jr. represented Carmen Schick and James W. Manolis represented Kenneth Schick.
Manolis is also an attorney for the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp./Regional Chamber of Commerce, an agency that works with the county and township to bring INCD development to Mahoning Township.
The Schick family had the deed restriction put in place when they sold it in 2007 to Centaur PA Land, LP, for $20 million. Centaur planned to build the racetrack and casino there, but those plans fell through around 2010 and the land remained vacant. Eventually, Centaur sold the land to AHT Land LP of Youngstown for $1 million.
Tabak and the Shick brothers previously owned the land in fee simple and registered the Declaration of Ownership Restrictions on August 31, 2007, in effect for 99 years, before selling it for the racetrack and casino.
According to Gotaskie’s motion in court, the INCD now plans to acquire the acreage to be developed as a modern, light industrial park on the property. The property does not have access to water, natural gas and electricity.
County commissioners, the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. and township supervisors had approached RIDC about developing the property, and RIDC signed an agreement on September 24 with AHT Land to purchase the land for $1,482,000.
RIDC’s Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Fund, through RIDC, has been approved for a 15-year, $2.25 million loan at an interest rate of 2.5 % to buy the property and develop its infrastructure.
“RIDC intends to invest tens of millions of dollars to develop the property into a light industrial park, focused on flexible and light industrial uses primarily for manufacturing, distribution, assembly, warehousing, research and development and office uses,” the court documents state. .
The documents indicate that RIDC is in confidential talks with potential companies to locate on the property, and it has signed a letter of intent with a third party to occupy at least part of the property. This venture would bring “a substantial number of jobs and a significant financial investment” to the township and county.
It is essential that the restriction is removed from the property or that there is a statement that it does not apply to the development, the complaint states, and unless either of these things happen, the interested party will walk out and the township, county and ratepayers will “suffer immediate and irreparable harm.”
The company is therefore seeking a court ruling that the restriction does not apply.
“We shouldn’t allow dead plans for a racino to impact what happens there today,” Gotaskie said in court.
If the status doesn’t change, “there will be no development on the property in the future because other people will be scared off,” he said. “Damages will not and cannot solve this problem. There will be no opportunity for development.
“All we’re asking for is a return to the status quo of 2007,” Gotaskie said, before when racino was a possibility.
“The restriction is pretty clear,” Hamilton replied. “Our position is that it should be categorically denied today” and “there is no need for an injunction”.
He argued that the Schick family sold the property on the condition that the restriction be in place. DeCaro asked if RIDC had the right to go to court with the case because AHT has the interest.
“It’s self-imposed,” he said. “They (RIDC) made a deal with AHT knowing the restriction is on the property.”
Manolis said a hearing on the matter would not be appropriate.
“No amount of court action could solve this problem,” he said. “There really is no practical relief for plaintiffs in this case.”
It was noted earlier in the proceedings that there is a gas/oil drilling well on or near the property.
“Obviously the township is interested in any development,” Perrotta said on behalf of Mahoning Township, “and I don’t think you can be more intrusive than the oil and gas industry.”
Perrotta said township supervisors favor removing the restriction on acts.
He pointed out that the INCD over the past few decades has developed a parcel of land north of the Northgate Industrial Park in Neshannock Township where the IBEW Training Center, Velocity Magnetics, Dallas W. Hartman Office and Container are located. Services Inc. – which manufactures honey bear bottles – are now found.
Medure commented that RIDC turned out to be “variably the Midas touch in western Pennsylvania. Its sole purpose is to develop real estate, create jobs and earn enough money to go and create jobs elsewhere. It is the purest form of development,” he said.
He said the county’s support for the project is “an emphatic yes” and that the INCD is looking for several landforms in order to build, all supported by the county.
Gotaskie said he believes “mediation is needed” and that the INCD “will not wait forever.”
DeCaro said the Schicks owned a substantial amount of property and the restrictions on the deed benefited everyone’s plots nearby. The restriction wasn’t in place because of the racino, it was in place “for other uses on the side”, he said.