By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
For 21st Century Media
OXFORD - State Rep.John Lawrence came to the June 16 Borough Council meeting to announce approval of low income housing tax credits to improve the White Hall Acres apartment complex.
Lawrence, R-13, of West Grove explained that White Hall Acres has recently been purchased by Conifer. That company plans a $9 million complete renovation of the complex. “They put in for a little less than $7 million in tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (PHFA),” Lawrence said. “It really hasn’t seen major improvements since it was constructed in 1974.”
The system works by PHFA granting the tax credits to the property owner, who then may sell those credits to businesses that owe taxes. The income from those sales can then be used to finance the improvement project. There is no impact on borough tax revenues for the property.
Lawrence reported that there were 74 applicants for the tax credit program and 24 were approved. “It’s going to make the renovation of the project possible, which would not have otherwise been feasible, to move forward,” he said. “It is going to be a good thing, not just for the neighborhood but the borough in general.”
Also addressing council was former councilman Jamie Cole on behalf of the Oxford Public Library. The library board had planned a LEED certified expansion project that was approved by the borough in 2011, but never recorded. After the approval, the expansion languished for lack of funding. Now the library is reviving the plan without the green features on a more manageable budget of $1.3 million.
To get the expansion plan back on track, the library first needs to get borough approval for the revised plan. The new design uses the same footprint as the first plan, so the submission could be seen as a minor change, but it has to go back to planning commission.
Councilman Gary Tozzo, who also serves on the planning commission, explained that because the plan was not recorded within 90 days of approval, it is null and void, but council may choose to grant an extension if they receive a written request to do so. “It could be brought back to life. They would have to resubmit everything and start from the beginning but without incurring the new application fees,” Tozzo said.
The continuing debate over benches in the business district took a new turn when council voted four to one to return the two benches that had been removed from the streetscape.
The benches, located on Third Street in front of the sewer authority offices, and at the corner of Third and Market streets were removed for facade improvements to the buildings, but business owners have complained about loitering at the benches and foul language, and would like to see them stay away permanently.
“From the get go this has been a problem. I’m not sure why it was such a difficult one to solve,” Borough Manager Betsy Brantner said. “These are two benches and I don’t think it has to be such a big issue.”
Councilman Randy Teel argued for retaining at least the Market Street bench because the road is a steep climb, particularly for the elderly.
In response to complaints about the people hanging out on the benches with vulgar language, Police Chief John Slauch told council that his department will respond to complaints from business owners. “If they tell us there’s a problem with the benches we tell them (the offenders) to leave,” Slauch said. “If the person is offended to the point where they want the person arrested, they have to be the victim. They don’t want to take it to that level. They just want them to leave,”