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Riverview School District joins in TIF study

| Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010

The Riverview School District board will participate in a joint study on the potential effects of Tax Incremental Financing for a planned housing development.

By a 5-3 vote, the board Monday approved joining officials from Oakmont and Allegheny County to form a commission to look at whether the TIF could hurt the district or not.

Brooks & Blair Homes of Shadyside asked for the local governments' participation in the study and said it will pay the costs. Brooks & Blair wants to build The River's Edge, an upscale housing development that includes 168 single-family homes, condominium and townhouse dwellings, parks, private boat dock and a restaurant. The $60 million to $80 million development would be located on 28 acres of the former Edgewater Steel Co. site along the Allegheny River.

Dan Macosh, a principal partner in the development company, said the TIF would allow a portion of the taxes to be diverted away from the borough, county and school district over a number of years. He said the diverted tax dollars would be used to pay investors the interest on bonds they purchase to finance needed infrastructure and site preparations.

Such financing was used to help build the Route 28-Pittsburgh Mills Mall interchange. District Business Manager Frank Thompson said following the meeting that a TIF has never been used for a residential development in Allegheny County.

The payoff for the district would be that, once full taxes are reinstated, they will be much more because they would be on a multimillion development, not an undeveloped brownfield, Macosh said.

"It's not for building houses," Macosh said. "It is for bringing a brownfield site into a buildable condition."

He said there is some industrial waste that has to be removed from the site and large amounts of compactable soil hauled in to provide stability for house foundations at the site.

Also, Macosh said sewer lines will have to be constructed at the site and placed deeper than normal, about 15 or 16 feet, in order for sewage flow to reach the sewage pump station.

As for how much he expects that to cost, Macosh said he had a figure in mind but declined to give it, saying it must be honed pending the study findings.

"Please understand, everybody, that what we are requesting is to study the implications of this and the financial implications for Oakmont and the school district," Macosh told the board before the vote.

Board member John Hackworth said Brooks & Blair is competing with Murrysville developer Richard Kacin, who has started developing a residential neighborhood on an adjacent 34-acre site.

He said Kacin will be paying the full amount of taxes to the district while Brooks & Blair would be paying only part if the TIF plan is approved.

"I fundamentally believe that it should not be the school board's position to make them more competitive," Hackworth said.

He said the "best market study is to let people start putting houses up and see if they sell."

Board President Ann Shearon agreed. She said she has "fundamental problems" with the development, mainly if the community is ready for an additional 400 homes between the two developments.

But other board members viewed it differently.

David Kadylak said the project is solid and "worth supporting."

Lisa Ashbaugh and Dean Hornsby said they were leaning toward opposing the study but, after reviewing some information from the developer, they believe it should be examined.

"I kind of believe that we owe it to ourselves to participate in this," Ashbaugh said.

Ashbaugh, Kadylak, Hornsby, Arlene Loeffler and Joseph DiMario voted to join the study. Shearon, Hackworth and Heidi Dolan opposed it. Mary Kay Stein was absent.

Dolan and DiMario participated in the meeting via speakerphone.

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