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Highlands OKs $1M school sale

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
The former Heights Elementary School along Freeport Road in Harrison on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.

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By Tom Yerace

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 2:22 p.m.

It might take as long as seven months for the sale of Heights Elementary for $1 million to become final.

If and when that happens, what rises on the 2.34-acre site once the school is razed may, or may not be, a Sheetz convenience store.

“Sheetz is one alternative; it is not the only alternative,” said Dale Greco of RBG Development. “I have a national retailer who is also interested in the property.”

Greco made those comments as he and Highlands School District officials signed an agreement Tuesday night that would give ownership of the property to RBG for $1 million. The school board unanimously approved.

The initial indication however, is that, Sheetz, the Altoona-based convenience store chain, wants the closed school along Freeport Road.

Greco, in fact, had some drawings of a Sheetz building that he showed to some Highlands board members Tuesday.

According to Greco, the site could accommodate a retail store of 6,000 to 15,000 square feet. He said the typical Sheetz store is about 6,500 square feet.

He acknowledged that his company has done a lot of work in the region developing Walgreens drug stores but said the national retailer he referred to is not Walgreens. He did say that the business of the alternate retail store is “totally different” than a Sheetz.

Highlands Solicitor Ira Weiss said the seven-month delay before finalizing the sale is to allow RBG time to do its homework to ensure that the site will work. It must obtain various site approvals, including environmental and municipal.

He said RBG has put up a deposit of $20,000 “hand money” to secure the agreement. That money would be refunded to RBG if it finds something wrong with the site that would cause a problem in developing it.

If RBG simply decides not to move forward, then the district keeps the down payment.

State law also requires the negotiated sale of school property to be approved by an Allegheny County judge, Weiss said. He does not expect a problem.

Next up: Harrison's OK

Greco said he has not discussed the development with township officials in regard to what it may need to comply with zoning ordinances. The current zoning for the property is R-1 residential.

“We have not started the process,” Greco said. “I do not go into a municipality and do that unless I have signed agreement with the property owner.”

The property is in close proximity to the middle school, across Freeport Road, and an accompanying school speed zone that is strictly enforced.

Greco said that RBG is looking at the possibility of adding a traffic signal near the site.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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