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Officials hope ‘zone’ status brings opportunity to defunct properties

September 28, 2018

Somerset Township officials are taking steps to give two unused buildings new life.

During a special meeting Thursday, supervisors approved designating the former JMS Recycling and 84 Lumber buildings as Keystone Opportunity Zones. The zone program aims to attract industries into the area by offering relief from real estate and corporate taxes.

Josh Boland, Somerset County Economic Development Council executive director, said anyone looking to buy these properties would not have to pay taxes for 10 years starting in January.

“It’s a program to lure business into Somerset County, and after they are established, X amount of years down the road they go back onto the tax roll,” he said.

The 84 Lumber building, along Stoystown Road, has been vacant since it closed in 2015. County records list the market value of the property, including the building and land, at $497,280.

“It’s a decent property in a good location, so we are hoping to entice people to come in,” he said.

The JMS building, along Cannery Road, still has severe environmental issues, according to Boland. Mountains of garbage are still around the building. There are unpaid loans with Somerset Trust Co. and the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.

“There’s a lot of cleanup that needs done,” he said. “There is some garbage that has been left, and just illegal dumping over the years.”

Boland said he plans to look into getting a grant from the government to help pay for cleanup. County records list the market value of the building and the land at $1,061,030.

“It needs a helping hand,” he said. “We’re looking for grant money to help get it on tax rolls and get it sold.”

Boland added that making these properties Keystone Opportunity Zones prompts the “reuse of underutilized properties.”

Supervisor Chairman Don Miller said the supervisors are trying to get the properties cleaned up and back on the tax rolls.

“Right now it’s not going anywhere,” he said.

Boland said he has a month to get everything together to add these two properties to the program.

“Hopefully the state will approve this, but it’s always up to the state and what they decide to do,” he said.

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