7/04/2007

Pirolli offers insight into Ifshin extension: Bucks County PA Courier Times, 6/22/07

By Gema Maria Duarte

Tullytown [PA] council President Beth Pirolli wants to inform residents about council's decision to grant a two-year extension to developer Stephen Ifshin to complete the Levittown Town Center.

“[The council] wants the residents to understand what is going on,” Pirolli said Thursday afternoon. “[The council] wants [residents] to know that after much discussion, the decision wasn't made lightly. The developer came to us and said, "If I don't get the extension, there's no contract with Wal-Mart or any other store.' [The council] knows that residents want the shopping center, so if we didn't give him the extension, the shopping center wouldn't get built.”

In May, Ifshin signed a contract with Wal-Mart for a superstore that would sell everything its regular stores sell plus meats and produce.

Wal-Mart spokesman Jim Davis said Thursday construction is expected to start by June 2008. He also said it usually takes about a year to finish construction, depending on the scope of the project.

For Pirolli, the council's June 5 decision to give Ifshin the extension is a “win-win” for Tullytown residents.

“If construction [at the shopping center] is not going on by June 2008, he will not get the extension,” she said.

Building Inspections Underwriters of Feasterville, the company hired by the borough, will figure out the construction percentage that Ifshin will be required to have completed by June 2008, Pirolli said.

“[Ifshin] needs to have a significant amount of the construction completed for [the council] to grant the extension,” she said. “We also need to define "significant' and be fair.”

In a news release dated June 14, Pirolli listed eight requirements Ifshin will have to follow to get the extension, including the replacement and maintenance of Kenwood Drive North before the opening of the Super Wal-Mart, the cleaning and maintenance of a drainage area near the Kenwood section of Tullytown, construction of Wal-Mart under way by June 2008 or the extension would be withdrawn and construction of the other stores to occur as early as fall. Ifshin will also need to submit monthly progress reports on the project to the council. The reports will be released to the public during council meetings.

Pirolli said the release was approved by all council members, but Councilman Ed Czyzyk said he didn't approve it. He said he wasn't part of any research or discussions with the council about the challenges of eminent domain. Neither was Councilman Joe Shellenberger. He said he didn't get the release in time to request changes, and that the council usually leaves him in the dark.

Pirolli's release said, “Because we were advised that it would take many years to fight an attempt to take this property using "eminent domain' guidelines, the council researched extensively before arriving at our decision.”

“I know nothing about the research [the council] did,” Czyzyk said. “I wasn't told about these research or discussions.”

Czyzyk and Shellenberger voted against the extension. Council members Rick Adams, Mary Ann Gahagan, Matt Pirolli and Beth Pirolli voted for it. Councilwoman May Kucher wasn't present at the meeting.

Beth Pirolli said most of the council's discussion on the extension request occurred at the June 5 meeting and not before it.

She also explained that most of her eminent domain research came from the Internet. Borough solicitor William Salerno advised the council that eminent domain cases take a long time to be resolved, she said Thursday.

In the press release, Pirolli points out that if the borough were to obtain Ifshin's 50-acre property at Route 13 and Levittown Parkway through eminent domain, “it would be very costly and it could then only be used for public projects: roads, parks and government buildings.”

She further explained that if the borough “chose to use the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority to attempt to take this property, we, the residents, would not have the final say in what would be on that property, although we would pay for the land and all attorney and court fees.”

That's not the way it works, according to Mike Savona of Friedman, Schuman, Applebaum, Nemeroff & McCafferty, P.C. in Elkins Park, Montgomery County. Eminent domain procedures are “case by case,” said Savona, who represents the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with eminent domain cases.

If the redevelopment authority took the case, then the agency would be responsible for the legal fees, unless there's an agreement between the borough and the agency leaving the municipality responsible for the legal cost, he said.

The redevelopment authority hasn't been approached by the council to help obtain the property at Route 13 and Levittown Parkway.


Bucks County PA Courier Times: http://www.phillyburbs.com