Land swap may save floundering Pike County business park

By Beth Brelje Pocono Record Writer October 03, 2012
Pike County economic developers hope to swap part of the long-dormant business park in Blooming Grove Township for state gamelands. The goal? Put a new business park at the current gamelands site near the intersection of routes 6 and 739. Salamanders, setbacks and a pending sale have spurred consideration of the land exchange. Here’s the background: LP Cylinder Service of Shohola plans to buy nearly 36 acres of the business park for $536,000, plus a never-used sewage treatment plant for $40,000. It is part of a business expansion in which LP Cylinder expects to double its current workforce of 40 at the business park. The rest of the park is undevelopable due to a number of environmental limitations, said Mike Sullivan, executive director of the Pike Economic Development Authority. Endangered salamanders are living there. The land has large rock croppings that are hard to build on. In addition, there are 300 acres of wetlands, plus smaller pockets of wetlands throughout the business park. Wetland setback rules have become more restrictive since the land was purchased in 1997. The modern setbacks squeeze out building space on the site. “I hate being held up because we don’t have a place to put people,” Sullivan said. “We need 250 acres of developable land set aside.” That is why the development authority is pursuing a land swap with the state, trading the remaining 570 acres of the business park to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in exchange for 285 acres of state game land along Route 6 in Blooming Grove Township. The gamelands are less than a mile west from the intersection of Route 739 and abut Blooming Grove Hunting Club property. A state program allows land swaps like this. The current, empty business park has racked up at least $2.5 million in debt to obtain the land and prepare it for use. The debt was incurred with the plan of paying it back as plots of land were sold. That didn’t happen. Now the Pike County Business Development Corporation, which has title to the park, is in default of a $982,000 loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, and accruing interest of 5 percent on the loan. Sullivan is negotiating with the state to get a two-year forbearance of the loan. This would give Pike time to complete the land swap, sell the land to businesses and settle the old debts.