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Falls supervisors to begin review of U.S. Steel redevelopment soon, streamline home inspection

They also voted to limit smoking on township property and continue geese management at the park

Starting the process: The Falls Township supervisors announced that the township Planning Commission is slated to begin review next week of a 1 million-square-foot warehouse on River Road. This is the first phase of NorthPoint Development’s transformation of the sprawling U.S. Steel property. Source: Zoom Screenshot

For over a decade, countless ideas were thrown around for the expansive U.S. Steel property in Falls Township, including the controversial Elcon waste plant. But none came to fruition. That is, until NorthPoint Development.

It’s been a little over a month since the Kansas-based company received approval from the Falls board of supervisors to transform the 10 million square feet of space, and the project continues to advance forward.

The supervisors announced during their Monday, Jan. 18 meeting, that the Falls Township Planning Commission is slated to begin review next week of a 1 million-square-foot warehouse on River Road. This is the first phase of the sprawling redevelopment. According to township engineer Joe Jones, the land development plan could be ready for review by the board of supervisors as early as its meeting on March 15.

NorthPoint intends to construct at least 20 state-of-the-art industrial warehouse buildings totaling 10 million square feet, with the potential for 15 million square feet. Company officials said NorthPoint aims to bring giants like GM, Amazon, Chewy, Walmart, UPS, FedEx and more to Falls Township, creating between 5,000 and 10,000 new light industrial jobs.

Additionally, the Keystone Industrial Port Complex would be renamed the Keystone Trade Center by NorthPoint as part of the $1.5 billion redevelopment, expected to begin this spring. The transformation is set to include upgraded and updated utilities, freshly paved roads, landscaping and about $25 million earmarked for environmental remediation.

In other news, the Falls supervisors adopted an ordinance to amend its housing standards in an effort to simplify the inspection process as it relates to home-buying and residential rentals. Prior to its adoption, township attorney Lauren Gallagher said township officials reviewed the ordinance with owners of apartment complexes and representatives from a realtors association.

The ordinance eliminates the current residential resale inspection process and replaces it with a certification of major components, including heating system, chimney, sewer system and the electrical panel. Once these components are certified, a certificate of occupancy is issued.

“We do not require a home inspection,” said Matt Takita, Falls Township manager, chief code enforcement officer and zoning officer. “That’s going to be between the buyer and the seller.”

Takita added that, typically, homebuyers conduct home inspections prior to purchasing a new home. The level of inspection that homeowners undertake privately is “far greater” than what the township does.

“There’s a lot of protection for the buyer,” he said.

Homebuyers would be made aware of open violations or outstanding permit violations on the property prior to buying.

Additionally, the ordinance change institutes a rental unit inspection program, which calls for the annual inspection of both indoor and outdoor common areas at apartment complexes. An interior inspection would be undertaken for every apartment unit that has been occupied for three years or more. Takita said that each apartment complex would start a registry of tenants who have three or more years of tenancy.

Next on the agenda, the supervisors voted to propose an ordinance change that would limit smoking on township-owned property. If adopted, the ordinance would prohibit smoking on any township property except in designated areas. Currently, the Falls Township municipal complex does not have designated smoking areas.

According to the proposed ordinance, which the supervisors will consider for adoption during the Feb. 16 meeting, smoking includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, other lighted smoking instruments and vaping.

Finally, the board voted to approve a multi-faceted, year-long geese mitigation plan in order to rid Falls Township Community Park of Canada geese while being fiscally responsible. The plan boasts a 25 percent savings over 2020.

Falls Township Parks and Recreation director Brian Andrews told the supervisors that geese management efforts were ramped up in 2015 and have significantly reduced the number of geese at the park.

“It’s paid dividends at the community park,” he said. “It’s really made the park a lot safer. We recommend doing this every year.”

For 2021, the board unanimously approved awarding a year-long contract to Geese Police of Philadelphia at a rate of $1,400 per month, for a total of $16,800 for the year. Previously, the township contracted with another vendor for a 10-month geese management effort, which cost $22,000 in 2020. Geese Police of Philadelphia owner Lenny Torro explained that his crew would visit the park multiple times a day, six days a week.

“I don’t want to reduce the amount of geese,” Torro said. “I want to rid the property of them.”

Geese Police will concentrate its efforts on the park’s lake, lake perimeter, marshes, creek, canal area, fields and common ground. It will employ border collies to chase away geese, and also incorporate other mitigation measures such as watercraft, noise, lasers, lights and effigies. Ultimately, Torro said his goal is to prevent geese from overnighting and push grazers elsewhere.

“It’s going to be my job to make sure nobody’s there to molt,” he said, adding that he wants the township to have a “nice empty pond in summertime.”

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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