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Developer discusses interest in Brandywine plan

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A Harrison City-based developer said he envisions building homes for at least 70 families if he can buy a 26-acre portion of the Woods of Brandywine plan in Manor.

Kevin Braun of Patriot Homes USA told the Manor Planning Commission last week that he is researching the construction of single-family or multi-family homes — or a mix of both — for property that is scheduled for a March sheriff's sale by Westmoreland County.

Besides the most-pressing issue of buying the land itself, Braun said one of his biggest concerns is the scope of any “sins of the past” by the previous owner, Jana Development, that could drive up the cost of completing the infrastructure for the housing plan.

Braun emphasized that his proposal is in an early conceptual phase, but said that he would build homes that would cost between $275,000 and $325,000 to buy. His early blueprints show either a development with 70 single-family homes or a plan with multi-unit, ranch-style homes that could accommodate as many as 78 families.

“This is something that, I think, with the right developer and the right plan, would be amazing,” Braun said.

Since 2000, Patriot has built homes in the Crimson Pointe housing plan in Manor, three Penn Township plans and one plan in North Huntingdon Township.

AmeriServ Financial started a foreclosure case against Jana last year for nearly $544,000. The property is listed for the March 4 sheriff's sale, but Braun said he has talked with the bank's officials about a potential purchase beforehand.

Patriot was one of the creditors listed when Jana filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court, but a judge dismissed the case after Jana failed to present a reorganization plan.

Manor Council, which deemed Jana in default of a developer's agreement, is seeking the release of a $174,000 line of credit from AmeriServ so it can complete some of the roads, stormwater facilities, landscaping, and other infrastructure in the housing plan.

Solicitor John Campfield and Councilman Jeff Herman, who sits on the planning commission, said borough officials would be open to talking with Braun about outstanding issues with the development.

“I'm sure the borough's anxious to get something up there, anyway,” Herman said.

Another potential snag is the status of a shallow gas-well permit that council approved for Kriebel Resources in November 2010. Braun said he wouldn't be interested in the property if there is any well activity because it could suppress sales.

But a spokeswoman for Kriebel told the Penn-Trafford Star that the company let the permit expire and has no plans to drill there.

Manor Council recently re-zoned the affected Brandywine property from agricultural to residential as part of an updated zoning ordinance. With that change, single-family lots in the proposed plan would be limited to 70 feet wide.

The borough's Zoning Hearing Board would have to approve a special exception for Patriot for any multi-family homes Braun would propose building.

Braun said he has a passion for building multi-family homes, but he's not sure if he could sell so many bunched together in one development.

Yet, Braun said he frequently gets requests from empty-nesters about smaller, single-level properties in which they would participate in a homeowners' association and not have to worry about shoveling snow or cutting grass.

“That's what those people want,” he said. “They don't want to burn all of Saturday pulling weeds.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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