SCOPE

To inform all Bucks County communities of the objectives, mission and vision of the Redevelopment Authority and the opportunities available through its programs and projects plus the advantages available to Bucks County communities through the special powers of the Authority in eliminating blighted properties and revitalizing underused or vacant areas.

GENERAL

The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks strives to inspire community development by establishing communities that are recognized as outstanding assets through comprehensive approaches that coordinate housing rehabilitation, economic development and the opportunity of family sustaining employment in the County of Bucks.

HISTORY

The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks is empowered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through Act 385, more commonly known as the "Urban Redevelopment Law". The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Act on May 25, 1945. Redevelopment Authority's operate in situations where the private sector and/or local governments cannot effectively perform.

Since its creation in 1962, the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority has eliminated blight and provided affordable housing to county residents. We improved more than 1,700 homes for Bucks County homeowners and hundreds of rental properties for low and moderate-income residents. Additionally, the Authority has been instrumental in the rehabilitation and reuse of abandoned industrial and commercial sites all over Bucks County.

Although the Redevelopment Authority is an arm of Bucks County government, it is not funded directly by county tax dollars. The Authority is funded through the administration of projects and programs.

The Authority operates very similar to a small business by obtaining funds for operational costs through the development and implementation of specific projects. The similarity ceases at that point as the Authority only operates on blighted, deteriorated or abandoned properties in cooperation with the local, county, state and federal governmental organizations having jurisdiction or at the invitation of a Bucks County property owner.

Many of the areas of Lower Bucks County have been in a state of extreme transition over the course of several decades resulting in significant job losses in that time period. Some twelve to fourteen thousand jobs have been eliminated between the closing of the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster Township, the downsizing and closing of hot end steel making by U.S. Steel in Falls Township, as well as numerous other large industrial operations that continued to be negatively affected by the circumstances. Meanwhile, a substantial number of deteriorating buildings, both industrial and residential, became vacant and blighted providing a need to be removed or rehabilitated and reused.

COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


It is desirable to link housing rehabilitation with economic development initiatives in the same areas, providing a strong base for home-ownership and proper maintenance of existing housing stock.

Clearly, one of the most significant problems facing many Bucks County communities is employment, especially the provision of family-sustaining jobs. This goal is achieved through the development of new business and the expansion of existing businesses. This entails ensuring proper funding, adequate managerial support in key positions, and preparation for economic downturns, including the ability to adjust to market changes.

The Authority recognizes the importance of business and job opportunities now and in the future. Continuing to provide employment remains a major concern in Bucks County with corporations downsizing, restructuring, and laying off employees.

The Authority endorses aggressive economic development programs that offer industry incentives for retention, expansion and initiatives to attract new business. A mix of manufacturing, service and high-tech employment opportunities are imperative, including jobs that encourage personal growth and advancement.

Clearly, the county, townships, boroughs and local government agencies must work hand-in-hand with the private sector to build incentives to retain existing business and attract new business. Also important are infrastructure improvements and variable interest rate financing during start-up and initial operation. The private lending sector is encouraged to join in the effort of supplying capital to existing and new businesses using methods that encourage job retention and employment growth.

Public funds should be used to leverage private dollars to revitalize the economy by involving all segments of the community, including political leadership, community and environmental groups, non-profit organizations, schools and other institutions.

COOPERATION


Cooperation by local agencies and municipalities, including our own, is often hampered by well-intentioned, but inefficient regulations that require too many project dollars for administration, engineering, consulting and legal costs.

Act 385, also known as "The Urban Redevelopment Law," section 9(c) lists cooperation as a power of the Authority. Cooperation is defined as “an association for mutual benefit,” therefore, a cooperative is the engagement of joint economic activity operated for the mutual benefit of the organizations involved.

Before a municipality embarks on a project, it should determine if the governing bodies and the local communities are receptive. This ensures a timely conclusion to the project. The perfect project develops when all parties feel they benefited the most, an objective reasonably attained.

At the beginning of the project, a "Cooperation Agreement” is drawn up between the municipality and the Redevelopment Authority by their solicitors and governing bodies. The Authority encourages agreements that are to the point and contain a brief overview and guidelines, including the source of the funding and how project income will be handled. The Redevelopment Authority may also enter into a cooperation agreement with property owners or developers, providing the project or projects are being redeveloped in accordance with local and national codes.

Before the Redevelopment Authority becomes involved in a project, either a property owner or municipality or the County of Bucks must invite the Authority to assist, followed by a Cooperation Agreement drawn up in accordance with the information noted above.

Cooperation is required at all levels: The local governing body, developer, property owner, planning commission, building code officials and the community. There is, however, a need for a “user-friendly” project in order for the redevelopment area to be completed successfully.

The Redevelopment Authority has enjoyed remarkable success developing partnerships among multiple-jurisdictions: United States Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, PA Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Community and Economic Development, as well as several foundations. These partnerships, coupled with strong support from Bucks County legislators, have provided millions of dollars in grants and loans for projects administered by the Authority for communities throughout Bucks County.

CONCLUSION

A Redevelopment Authority operating within an established redevelopment project area has significant powers unavailable to municipality-operated entities, such as the ability to negotiate for the lowest cost of demolition or site improvements, rather than accepting the low bid. Also, the RDA has the ability to negotiate for the selection of a developer, based on the merits of a proposal rather than the highest bid for the property.

These broad powers are especially important in project areas for contracting infrastructure and the acquisition of properties for the purpose of eliminating blight, remediating environmental problems and obtaining a redeveloper to work in accordance with an approved, local municipal plan.

The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks is an action-oriented agency with significant experience in acquiring property amicably, or utilizing its powers of eminent domain, and is ideally suited to manage properties on an interim basis.

The Redevelopment Authority is experienced in the administration of projects with numerous multi-jurisdictional and financial implications that need to be successfully resolved.







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