KNOX — For 22 years, the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation has developed the 67-acre Beaver Township Economic Development Park and is still hoping to attract industries to the site.
In 2012, CCEDC came within hours of a sale to a large company for 50 acres that would bring more than 300 jobs, according to CCEDC. A sales agreement was signed by CCEDC and overnighted to be signed by the buyers, when the gas industry changed, and it was canceled.
Due to confidentiality, CCEDC could not say more but says it has had many interested parties over the years. However, the 2012 event was the closest it has come to a sale.
“Currently, we have had several potential prospects for the park, including James Hunt,” said Bill Henry, a member of the CCEDC Board and an owner of Burford & Henry Real Estate Services.
Henry provided a quote from Hunt, who is based in Utah and leads a group of private investors.
“Our group identified Clarion County as a potential site,” said Hunt. “Clarion County is centrally located within a five-hour drive of 84 million people, including many cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toronto, Buffalo, New York City, Albany, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati.
“Our target was to create a destination in Clarion County. A destination promoting tourism in the area. The Knox property is a beautiful piece of land and has the opportunity for expansion or future development.”
Jason Hansford, CCEDC president, said, “The property in Knox could be a great opportunity, mostly if someone wanted to take advantage of the available New Market Tax Credits.”
Milissa Bauer, CCEDC secretary/treasurer, verified the property qualifies for the New Market Tax Credits, extended in the December 2020 COVID bill.
According to information provided by CCEDC, the property was purchased in October 1999 from George Bunch for $75,400.
Development of the site started almost immediately after purchase and continued through 2008 when the electricity was upgraded.
The land was first professionally marketed in 2008, through NAI, a commercial brokerage from Pittsburgh, and listed locally in 2015 with Burford & Henry Real Estate Services. Burford & Henry partnered with Hanna Langholtz, Wilson Ellis, a commercial broker in Pittsburgh in 2018, and is currently partnering with Cushman Wakefield from Pittsburgh.
One of the main issues at the site has been with the water supply.
The CCEDC installed approximately 8,600 feet of 16-inch waterline, a 3-inch sanitary sewer line, and constructed a sewage pumping facility for the industrial park. The size of the pipe was apparently recommended to supply a sufficient supply of water for suppression of fire at an industrial site. The size, however, caused problems in the delivery of potable water
The CCEDC had an agreement with the Knox Borough water department granting the CCEDC industrial park usage of 4,000 gallons per day from the Knox Borough water system.
According to a 2003 letter from the engineering firm, “Because of the volume of water in the existing storage tank approximately 500,000 gallons, and a volume of water stored within 16-inch pipeline approximately 100,000 gallons that feeds the industrial park, and the fact that the existing usage from the tank is only 1000 gallons per day and the proposed usage for the industrial park is limited to 4,000 gallons per day maximum, the water supplying the park is non-potable and should be considered for fire prevention only.”
The required water turnover per day to maintain a possible system, without secondary treatment, is approximately 40,000 to 50,000 gallons. As the system operates currently, whether it is from the storage tank, it takes approximately 20 days to travel to the industrial park, considering travel time, what are usage rates, and the very low turnover, the water cannot be treated without it becoming stagnant again.”
The development group at one time explored inserting a smaller water line inside the larger line, in order to provide potable water to the site, but the cost proved unaffordable.
Jack Bish, president of Knox Borough Council, was first elected to the council when the project was launched. He said Knox Borough is responsible for the operation of the site’s water and sewage plant, and he remembers the problems with the installation of the large waterline and the restrictions placed by the state.
“Enough water for fire suppression may have been required that they had to have a pipe that big — there’s no way you could keep our chlorine in the water to satisfy their DEP’s agreement,” said Bish.
“They might have got away with it, but to keep so much water in that tank, you would have to circulate it,” Bish explained. “When it’s not being used, the chlorine dissipates and then it turns black and nasty and stinky.”