RV Camp To Give Way to Industrial Park
When plans for the Golden Mile Commerce Park (GMCP) were first conceived by developers Brian Davis and Dan Hawbaker and brought before the Bradford County Planning Commission, there were no intentions of setting up an RV camp on the site parallel to Route 6 in Wysox Township in the area of Sherwood Groves Auto Group and Moore’s Auto and RV Sales. Nor did the developers expect such scrutiny from their neighbors and the public for what they considered an “act of charity.”
According to Carl Bankert of Glenn O. Hawbaker Construction, the Bradford County Planning Commission (BCPC) granted a temporary zoning permit to allow up to 40 RVs belonging to gas industry-related workers and their families to be placed on a portion of the property that will eventually hold several of 11 proposed 14,000-square-foot buildings designed to attract and accommodate new businesses. The permit was pursued after Davis authorized the use of several of his trucks to pull RVs and campers to higher ground and safety as fast-rising floodwaters in the Echo Beach area of Asylum Township threatened them in September.
Bradford County planner Sam Thrush confirmed that representatives of the corporation met with the planning commission in October to seek a resolution that would loosen regulations for emergency housing in order to legitimize the use of land behind Moore’s Auto and RV Sales through September 2012 for that purpose.
Since that time, additional RVs have been brought to the site, which led a number of township residents and business owners to cry foul. From there, rumors began to spread, including accusations that GMCP had illegally tapped into municipal sewer lines and speculation that RV salesman Steve Moore, who had sought assistance from Bradford County Commissioners earlier in the year for relaxation of RV site restrictions to ease the housing shortage, might be involved with the project.
Moore, whose business abuts the camp, indicated that he was as surprised as anybody else to see the site developed to its current extent. Although he has provided services to a number of the RV owners who have taken advantage of the proximity of his business, he has sold only one of about two-dozen RVs that are currently on the GMCP property.
“It did go up fairly fast,” Bankert agreed, acknowledging that such a rapid transition is bound to draw skepticism. “We also spent a large amount of money to get them (RV owners) in there.”
Davis estimates that approximately $100,000 was spent on underground electric conduits and hookups to a lateral sewer line that already existed and which was part of the original plans for the industrial park. The developers have a month-to-month agreement with the RV owners, and all of them are to be gone by next September so that GMCP can begin the second phase of its business park on the same site. Nonetheless, Davis was taken off guard by insinuations that he and his business partner had done anything “under the radar.”
“This property does not lend itself to an RV park. Anyone can see that,” stated Davis, who has made a career of building business parks in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. He attended Mansfield University and was married in Bradford County and had grown an affinity to the area. He was unable to imagine settling down here, however, until the Marcellus shale natural gas boom fostered an economic climate that made the kind of work he does viable. “I’m not a carpetbagger,” Davis asserted. “I have family here, and I’ve been in the area for more than 25 years.”
In light of their intentions to provide temporary living situations for fellow industry-related workers, Davis feels that complaints fielded recently by the BCPC about the camp are unfair and unfounded. Thrush related that a Rome Township campground owner had complained that his tenants were pulling out and moving to the GMCP site. BCPC decided that the claim warranted further discussion and will take on the matter at the beginning of the planning commission’s Dec. 20 meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. Thrush indicated that planning commissioner members want to be sure that the term “emergency” is not evolving to allow more people to move on to the GMCP site.
Davis said that he is aware of several new tenants who claimed that the sanitation conditions at the campground at which they had been living had been compromised by the flooding, and they were seeking a cleaner place to live.
“Some of the people who have come to us, their utilities and services have not been repaired since the flood,” he explained. “I can certainly understand that.” Davis said that his temporary tenants are assured of sanitary conditions at the GMCP site primarily because he doesn’t want to duplicate expenditures that are related to the future of the business park.
“Whatever we’ve done, we’ve done right. The electricity is in conduit and underground. The water (from an existing well) has been tested, and the conditions are top notch. As far as sanitary conditions, it’s unmatched,” Davis related, noting that local utility companies have been very cooperative with the project.
Fred Johnson of the Towanda Municipal Authority furthered dispelled notions that GMCP had tapped into its sewer lines illegally. “There’s going to be an industrial center there, so they extended the sewer per our permission to pick up those RVs now, that will later be used for the new complex,” he said.
The projected cost for the Golden Mile Commerce Park is estimated at $2.2 million. Preliminary plans include an access road that parallels Route 6, running alongside Tops Friendly Market in the Bradford Towne Centre on the east to Sullivan Street on the west. A traffic circle—or “rotary”—is planned for the center of the property to slow down and discourage through traffic, as well as to make it easier for tractor trailers to maneuver the park.
Davis and Hawbaker are promoting “rail access potential” to clients and will welcome their first tenant in the coming weeks to a building formerly used as a sawmill off Sullivan Street. That business, which Davis did not want to name, will move into one of the permanent new structures at a later date. The roads will be paved, and the park will be landscaped.
“We plan to be long-term players in the Marcellus shale long after the drilling boom is gone,” said Davis. “We are marketing all around the country to bring in corporate tenants.”