Last updated: May 13. 2014 11:28PM - 5192 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com



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The former Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township and several other vacant Luzerne County-owned properties will be back on the market by June as part of a revived effort to unload unused property, county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri told council’s real estate committee Tuesday.


If the county receives any bids close to the appraised values, the offers will be presented to council for its required approval, Pedri said.


The public advertising will ensure all interested buyers have an opportunity to submit bids, he said. Some county officials have pushed for the initiative to reduce liability, generate revenue and get property back on the tax rolls.


Prior administrations had tried to sell the 62.35-acre Valley Crest property after the private nursing-home operator moved into a new facility in 2010. The Salvation Army backed out of its plan to buy the building for $4.7 million for an adult rehabilitation center after the township refused to grant a zoning variance, and no buyers surfaced when the property was listed for sale a second time.


A local developer has inquired about buying part of the property, Pedri said. The county’s goal is to sell the entire parcel, though bids for a portion may be submitted and considered when the properties are publicly advertised, he said.


The other county-owned properties, Pedri said, that will be listed for sale:


• The four-story, former Springbrook Water Co. at 30 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, which was purchased in 2005 in a package of former watershed property previously owned by Theta Land Corp. Two potential buyers had backed out of purchasing the property from the county.


• The former Security Savings Bank building on Broad Street in Hazleton, purchased by former county commissioners Todd Vonderheid and Greg Skrepenak for $700,000 in 2007 to house a southern county annex that never materialized. The property was listed for sale for an appraised $625,000 in the past, but there were no takers.


County officials had planned to eat most of the loss and give the former bank to Hazleton in exchange for forgiveness of a city lien against another structure the county took over, but Pedri said Hazleton officials decided they did not want the property.


• The Broad Street Exchange in downtown Hazleton, which was acquired by the county to keep it out of a back-tax auction that would have caused the county to lose a $1.8 million community-development loan on the property. Unlike the three other structures, the exchange building, which once housed a department store, is almost fully occupied with tenants.


Kingston resident Brian Shiner urged county officials to consider keeping the Valley Crest site as a possible campus for all non-judicial county offices because it is centralized and near major interstates. The administration has said millions of dollars would be needed to retrofit the nursing home for county offices or demolish it to build a new facility.


Pedri also said he will present a proposed policy to council next month outlining procedures for the public to buy hundreds of vacant lots and land slivers that also ended up in the county’s name during the past 200 years.


One of these — a rundown and neglected county lot at 56 N. Cedar St. in Hazleton — was discussed Tuesday because city Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi is interested in buying it for city parking and possible future economic development. Past county officials bought the 0.18-acre lot for $30,000 in 1999, apparently to provide parking for county offices located nearby at that time, Pedri said.


Council members said they’d like to attempt to recoup the county’s $30,000 investment on the lot, but the mayor’s representative said he believes the lot is worth far less than that amount.


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