The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 17, 2013

Portage plan is taking shape

PORTAGE — One can already find tangible effects of Portage Borough’s 10-year comprehensive plan – an outline that addresses community concerns and establishes means for economic and industrial development.

You can even tour it yourself – during an open house.

Last fall, Russ Kiel of Russ Kiel Construction Co. in Portage finished work on one of the two-unit apartments he's building on the 800 block of Caldwell Avenue – called the "Centre Town Villas."

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom townhouses he’s currently marketing are just a short jaunt from Main Street. Portage officials intend to focus much of their local economy-strengthening efforts there, according to Rick Truscello of The EADS Group of Johnstown, who helped co-draft the plan alongside the commission.

“One of the things that we looked at and were directed to look at by the planning commission is the number of vacant storefronts, underutilized storefronts, and, in a couple cases, some vacant land,” Truscello said.

“We’re trying to piece them together and come up with an approach to facilitate downtown development.”

One aspect of the plan’s effectiveness in this matter comes in the form of a little-known tax incentive program: The Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act, or LERTA.

Under LERTA, property owners will be absolved of property tax payments on renovated or newly developed lots for a predetermined period of time. The property’s tax value will remain at its undeveloped levels for a time frame decided by each of its municipality’s taxing bodies.

“The availability of grants has certainly been declining over the years,” Truscello said, adding that the employment of LERTA gives municipalities more freedom to build and bring in new business.

“What can we do ourselves?” he said. “What kind of private development can we encourage?”

Near the intersection of Caldwell and Main, Kiel, a Portage native and contractor for more than 30 years, is getting ready to show the Centre Town Villas again.

The sale price is $139,000 and although the units will be pre-equipped with the basic amenities – gas heating, central air, appliances and full wheelchair accessibility – Kiel said the LERTA incentivization will be like icing on the cake.

“(It) will enable us to market these units better,” Kiel said. “If I can advertise that these are $139,000 but you’re not going to pay any property taxes for three years, there’s another $6,000 they just got handed.”

The two units standing now are the first he placed on the old Portage Area School District lot. He and partners bought the land before turning part of it into a plaza. They sold the plaza side and Kiel is now sole owner of the Centre Town Villas plot. He said he could build 10 more homes just like the current two, but won’t until he can market the ones he already has.

“I’ve been marketing them to people who are retired or ‘snowbirds’; people who are having trouble with steps or their house is too big and it costs $500 or $600 to heat it,” he said. “My son’s in a wheelchair, so (mobility and accessibility are) always in the back of my mind.”

Kiel said creating inviting opportunities for new residents, new business and, consequently, new tax revenue is part of what Portage’s 10-year plan is all about.

“You could move in here and save a lot,” he said. “Plus, the area is welcoming you. It gives the perception that we want you here.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • foust_25 Teen shot in Oakhurst

    A 16-year-old New Jersey boy was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center on Thursday after being shot three times in the Oakhurst section of Johnstown.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Audit: City overspent by $700G in 2013

    Legacy costs contributed significantly to the city of Johnstown coming up $689,000 short in its core services funding during 2013.

    July 24, 2014

  • Kuzma, jonathan Guilty plea in hammer death

    The Johnstown man who authorities said killed his father with a hammer last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to criminal homicide, authorities said.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • quecreek rescue Events to mark anniversary of Quecreek rescue

    When word spread that nine Quecreek miners were trapped underground in July 2002, Bill Arnold’s dairy farm quickly became the rescue effort’s ground zero.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged with running down fire official at accident scene

    A Mineral Point man has been charged with running down a fire police official at Monday’s fatal crash scene on William Avenue in Jackson Township.

    July 25, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 25, 2014

  • Huger, Stephen Accused Hornerstown shooter will stand trial

    A Johnstown man will stand trial in connection with a July 12 shooting in the Hornerstown section of the city.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Board names Zahorchak’s successor

    The Greater Johnstown school board at a special meeting Thursday named a superintendent to replace the retiring superintendent, rehired its last business manager and approved other administrative appointments.

    July 24, 2014

  • Pasquerilla, Mark Pasquerilla recognized as arts patron

    First lady Susan Corbett announced Thursday from the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pa., that Mark Pasquerilla of Johnstown has earned the Patron Award from the 2014 Governor’s Awards for the Arts.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ebensburg gets ready to party

    Party down with a shutdown.
    Downtown Shutdown, a street party featuring music and food, will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday in downtown Ebensburg.

    July 24, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads