North Strabane company seeks move south; developer requests Tanger Blvd. made public

Natalie Reid Miller
Observer Reporter

More than 10 years ago, Tanger Outlets and Bass Pro Outdoor World were on the way to South Strabane Township.

Despite citizen opposition, the retailers secured a 20-year tax-increment financing plan in 2005 for the proposed “Victory Centre” development on Racetrack Road from the three taxing bodies involved – Trinity Area School Board, Washington County commissioners and South Strabane supervisors.

Bass Pro, with plans to construct a retail complex, including a lake and conference center, purchased about 30 acres bordering Fischer Road in 2007. But while Tanger held a grand opening in August 2008 for the 350,000-plus square-foot shopping complex, nothing ever came of the outdoor retailer.

“Bass Pro is not coming. It’s time to get over it,” said Steve Thomas of Chapman Properties during a South Strabane planning commission meeting June 2. “Our property is not part of TIF and it never was.”

In February 2015, Chapman, owner of an undeveloped parcel next to Tanger Outlets, successfully petitioned township supervisors to add light manufacturing and professional offices to commercial districts, clearing the way for a North Strabane company to relocate. Thomas was one of several supporters of plastics manufacturer Ensinger Inc., requesting the planning commission recommend approval of their conditional-use application. Ensinger is not requesting a TIF.

William R. Matthews III, Ensinger’s vice president of administration, said the plan is to develop a 31-acre tract as their North American headquarters. The $40 million complex will encompass offices, manufacturing space and a robotic warehouse system.

About 145 employees work out of the North Strabane office – 60 percent of whom are Washington County residents, Matthews said, with hopes to eventually employ 200.

“I’m excited about the plan,” said Chairman Fred Pozzuto. “I like it.”

A few obstacles could stand in Ensinger’s way.

Chapman requested the township accept Tanger Boulevard as a public road in order to develop their property.

“If it’s not dedicated, we don’t have a project,” Matthews said. “I think this is the right place for it, but we can’t do it without access.”

Commission members and residents asked if making the road public would affect terms of the TIF. In addition, residents question if the road could handle the potential volume of traffic.

“The access is plenty well-designed to handle traffic,” Thomas said.

Tony Rosenberger of Chapman said the road was built to the specifications of a public road and Tanger agreed to maintain it because of the TIF.

“You’ve got the opportunity to satisfy three times the income Bass Pro was ever going to bring,” Rosenberger said.

The goal, he said, is to develop all of Chapman’s acreage, which will generate $2 million in taxes and over 2,000 jobs.

“Making the road public is an essential part of all of this,” Rosenberger said.

Matthews estimated once construction begins, it would take 18 to 24 months for completion.

The application and action on the master plan were tabled because the commission requested a cost analysis for maintenance of the road and proof that terms of the TIF would not be affected by approval. Dusty Kirk, an attorney for the developer, said those documents would be prepared.

Paula Phillis, commission vice chair, asked if the road could be put into the township’s name with Tanger maintaining it until the end of the TIF, in 2025.

“We don’t want to do that,” Kirk replied.