Study To See If Pottstown, Townships Can All Prosper

POTTSTOWN PA – How does Lower Pottsgrove- or any one of the seven townships surrounding the borough of Pottstown PA – encourage economic development inside its borders without, at the same time, competing against the borough itself? The Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee hopes to find out from a “regional market assessment and fiscal impact study” due to get started this month (June 2011).

The study has been a discussion topic for months among members of the committee – Lower Pottsgrove is represented there by township Assistant Manager Alyson Elliot – and various groups at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) in Philadelphia. The commission recently agreed to pay for the research as part of its amended 2012 budget.

The committee also consists of Pottstown, East Coventry, North Coventry, Douglass, Upper Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, and New Hanover townships. All want to see their municipalities prosper. All want their commercial tax bases to grow. For the most part, all say they believe economic development should be centered on the borough, with what commission documents describe as “its vacant industrial sites and struggling urban core.”

The market assessment portion intends to “identify ways in which all municipalities within the region can collaborate to attract new economic development” that satisfies their varied financial needs, DVRPC was told in May.

No one anticipates the task will be easy, Elliott acknowledged to Lower Pottsgrove’s Board of Commissioners. Some Pottstown officials are still bristling over what they contend were efforts last year that encouraged retailers from shopping centers on State Street and Shoemaker Road to relocate from the borough to the nearby Upland Square complex on the west side of Route 100.

That happened despite a long-held committee philosophy to try and keep businesses bound to Pottstown.

Lower Pottsgrove itself seemingly has potential conflicts with conclusions the assessment might draw.

  • It currently is investing millions of dollars in sewer system upgrades that, in part, will make it possible to attract more commercial development – which otherwise might go to Pottstown – to its side of the Sanatoga interchange of U.S. Route 422.
  • During April, the township staff presented a list of vacant commercial properties within Lower Pottsgrove that board Vice President Bruce Foltz ardently wishes it would help market to outsiders. Commissioners as a whole so far have declined to act on Foltz’s request, but he’s made it clear his “main objective is to get business into the township,” board minutes show.

The second half of the coming study focuses on the fiscal impacts of attracting businesses to any municipality. “All development has economic costs,” DVRPC notes; it expects the research “will assess those costs on municipal finances and on the transportation infrastructure, both near- and long-term.” References to transportation surely will include 422 itself, the main thoroughfare that cuts east to west across the region, and its possible future a a tolled highway.

A Maryland-based economic and planning consulting firm, TischlerBise, has been selected by DVRPC to conduct the study.

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