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Elizabeth Township commissioners approve sale of Swiss Alpine Village

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 12:56 a.m.

Elizabeth Township commissioners have approved the sale of Swiss Alpine Village.

At a special meeting on Monday, commissioners approved the sale to township residents Dan and Robin Poirier, who submitted a $350,000 bid on the commercial plaza along Route 48 in February.

Board of commissioners president Gene Francesconi and vice president Larry Vota voted against the measure, citing concerns that the township had lost too much money on the plaza over the years.

Commissioners Joanne Beckowitz, Claire Bryce, Donald Similo, Robert Thomas and Chris Evans voted in favor of the sale.

The township originally purchased the property in 2003 for $825,000 in an effort to stop its previous owner from locating an educational and residential center for non-violent juvenile offenders there. The sale succeeded in preventing the controversial center from moving in, but the Elizabeth Township Authority, which has overseen operations of the plaza since the transaction, has had trouble keeping all of the buildings rented.

Early in the meeting, Bryce said she thought the township should consider seeking counter bids on the property and asked if it could be “spruced up” to fetch a better selling price. She later voted with the majority to sell after a motion to table the measure that she introduced failed.

A township committee charged last fall with marketing the property was in favor of the sale to the Poiriers, who own other commercial property in the township. The committee reported last week that they pitched the property to dozens of real estate agents and most of them weren't interested. A total of five information packets about the property were sent to interested parties but only two of the recipients attended a mandatory tour of the plaza. The Poiriers were the only party to submit a proposal for the property.

Local real estate agent Robert Baum told commissioners on Monday that he believes the sale is a good idea. Baum told commissioners that keeping the property would be expensive because they would need to hire a manager for the plaza and invest a significant amount of money in the infrastructure. He also noted it might be a long time before the township receives another good offer on the property.

“This offer will stop the bleeding,” Baum said.

Dave Graham, president of Elizabeth Township Area EMS, which has its headquarters in the plaza, told commissioners that the cost of fixing the property, which he described as substandard, would be significant.

The Poiriers say they have high hopes for the plaza.

“It's going to be good for the township,” said Dan Poirier, who noted his goal is to get all vacant units rented as quickly as possible.

Robin Poirier said she hopes to obtain grants that will bring the Carnegie Library of McKeesport branch to the plaza. The branch is in Central Elementary School. But Elizabeth Forward School District officials have told library representatives that the branch will have to leave that location by the end of June.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or