Environmental cleanup around the old Peters Cartridge factory in Warren County is just one of many issues and developments Warren County Chamber Alliance members and county community leaders will discuss with elected officials and their staffs during an April 26 to April 28 “fly in” to Washington, D.C.
Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided

$25 million plan to save old Warren County ammunition plant hits snag

Developer asks county for 75 percent discount on connection fees.

Under the $25.4 million plan, the former Peters Cartridge Factory site would be converted into 15,000 square feet of commercial space and 130 “market rate” apartments.

County staff are preparing new regulations to permit the redevelopment of the site to cut the cost of tapping into the county’s water and sewer systems.

“We were not aware of these kinds of fees,” said Ken Schon of Bloomfield/Schon and Associates during a work session earlier this month with the Warren County commissioners. “We can’t afford to take on a project and lose a million dollars before we even start.”

After budgeting $100,000 for the fees, based on experience in other areas, Schon, a Warren County resident, said the company was confronted with estimated costs of $980,000.

The commissioners have already agreed to reduce the fees by $150,000, still leaving Bloomfield/Schon facing an $830,000 bill.

The developers, who have completed historic redevelopments in the Cincinnati area and Ithaca, N.Y., already received $5 million in federal tax credits and $2.4 million in state tax credits based on the site’s historic status to assist in financing the project in Hamilton Twp., Warren County.

Information on the company website indicates officials planned to complete the project next year.

On Friday, Schon said this would be at least delayed due to cost issues.

“We would have to find another way to fill that gap,” Schon said.

Closed as an ammunition plant after World War II, the complex, marked by a tall tower and smokestack, has sat mostly vacant for decades, in between stretches when a variety of businesses operated there. The property has been a nuisance at times and has fallen into disrepair.

Last year, U.S. EPA closed a popular section of the multi-use trail running along the river to complete an estimated $5 million cleanup of the soil at and around the site at 1415 Grandin Road, at the bottom of a steep grade leading down from Kings Mills, a small town that grew up around the factory.

The project was among those promoted by the Warren County Chamber Alliance on its annual trip to Washington, D.C. Additional assistance through the county economic development department is also possible, Schon said.

Schon said a market study showed the project would succeed and the buildings would make for excellent loft apartment spaces.

Last week, Cherie Wright, a nearby resident, questioned the feasibility of the redevelopment while walking past on the trail.

While welcoming an end to the vacant structures, Wright noted the steep, narrow two-lane that, after passing the project site, crosses a bridge and winds back up out of the river valley.

“It’s a bad idea in my opinion,” she said, noting the narrow road and absence of sidewalks. While preserving the tower and smokestack, “I would hope they would tear it down.”

Schon estimated $10 million in extraordinary costs and appealed for at least a 75 percent reduction.

The developer has agreed to pay to widen the road and add turn lanes. The company also agreed to improve the parking lot on the other side of Grandin Road, used by trail users, as part of a plan agreed upon in 2014 with Hamilton Twp. and the Warren County Regional Planning Commission.

Noting new regulations were added for Hopkins Commons, a senior housing development in Hamilton Twp. facing $1.2 million in tap-in fees, the commissioners expressed support for giving Bloomfield/Schon a break.

It was unclear when the commissioners would review proposed new regulations on tap-in fees for this and other historic projects.