County to join ‘Wilds’ program to housing rehab

By:   SCOTT JOHNSON - sjohnson@lockhaven.com
 POSTED:  April 22, 2008

LOCK HAVEN — The county hopes to tie in rehabilitation to houses along the Renovo Road and around South Renovo to the PA Wilds initiative.

County Planner Tim Holladay told the commissioners at their work session Monday morning his office, along with STEP Inc., plans on applying for $500,000 in federal HOME funding to rehab at least 25 houses along Route 120 from outside of Lock Haven into Renovo, and Route 144 near South Renovo.

The money would be leveraged with $23,000 in Act 137 funds the commissioners have already allocated for this year and next. Those funds come from fees for deeds in the county Recorder’s Office.

Holladay said the county has approximately $50,000 in that fund, with about $30,000 coming into it in recent years, though that figure has slowed somewhat recently.

The county has already secured $68,775 through the federal Department of Agriculture and just over $100,000 from the Core Community Housing project to rehab houses owned by low-income families, but the new funding would center on the corridor leading into the PA Wilds.

While discussing the possible new federal funding, the commissioners said this project could help tie houses into the PA Wilds initiative, which is designed to bring increased tourism to Clinton and other northern tier counties.

“If we’re going to spend money, we have to make sure it goes with the overall (PA Wilds) plan,” Commissioner Tom Bossert said. “We feel western Clinton County has an opportunity with PA Wilds. It’s probably not going to come through manufacturing, although we have some opportunities up there with (Renovo Rail)... We also think there is some opportunity here through PA Wilds and tourism.

“When you go to the PA Wilds, you ought to know you’re in the PA Wilds and I think we have an obligation for those folks in western Clinton County and the PA Wilds to give them a chance and we give them a chance through proper planning,” he continued.

Commissioner Adam Coleman showed Holladay and Terry Roller, director of STEP’s Housing and Building Initiatives program, a design guide from a recent PA Wilds conference in St. Marys showing different housing styles that could help with the tourism initiative, including mountain stone and log structures.

Holladay and Roller said housing rehabilitation projects along Route 120 or Route 144 could use an earthtones color scheme to help with tourism.

Coleman said he would like to see Clinton County be viewed as a statewide leader in tourism, and that could happen by loosely following the PA Wilds design guide.

“I would really like to see us not following this to a ‘T,’ but five years down the road, some of these other counties are coming in here and say, ‘Look at what these guys did. They are really promoting the PA Wilds by putting two programs together... the HOME grant and (the style guide),’” Coleman said. “I want to make an old farmhouse along Route 120 look like it belongs in the PA Wilds.”

Holladay responded the county is viewed statewide as a leader in the PA Wilds initiative, through river trails, river access points and extending rail-trails.

However, he noted the county’s housing rehab program has always had a limit of $25,000 per house because anything over that amount would mean the abatement of lead, which usually tacks on an additional $10,000 to $12,000 per structure.

Holladay said any housing rehab work must first begin with code deficiencies, including wiring, plumbing and leaky roofs.

Also, Roller told the commissioners his agency can recommend to homeowners they change their house’s exterior to fit into the PA Wilds decor, but cannot mandate it.

The commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the issue for 9:30 a.m. on May 8. The commissioners can then approve the federal funding application at their meeting later that morning.

 

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