Clarion Blueprint Inc. and allies pursuing several projects

Two properties along Liberty Street in Clarion have been identified as a possible location for "The Eagle's Nest" river overlook. The project could face zoning ordinance obstacles.

CLARION - Clarion Blueprint Inc.'s main focus this fall is finalizing major donations to help launch construction on, and complete, a community multi-generational public park along Second Avenue in Clarion Borough, but there are many other ideas percolating with the group.

Yes, one of those ideas is a Clarion River overlook along Liberty Street in Clarion Borough, but that's not a new idea.

Eric Funk, a member of the Clarion Blueprint Inc. volunteer board, said the overlook and a proposed University Arboretum, "which will involve the labeling of native plant and tree species along the Clarion Loop Trail," were included in a Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credit application as a way to show a multi-project, multi-municipality effort.

"It's well-known, when you're seeking grants and other funding opportunities, multi-project plans that include more than one municipality have a better chance," Funk said.

To qualify for the Neighborhood Assistance Program, a project must serve distressed areas or support neighborhood conservation. Projects must fall under one of the following categories: affordable housing programs, community services, crime prevention, education, job training or neighborhood assistance.

A tax credit of up to 55 percent can be awarded to qualified donors.

To qualify for the Neighborhood Partnership Program, of which the NAP is part, long-term collaborations (five years or more) of business, government and community leaders to produce a comprehensive, asset-based and relationship-driven approach to community development needs to be shown.

A tax credit of 75 percent or 80 percent can be awarded based on the length of the program.

Funk said Clarion Blueprint Inc. has already submitted the application for the $1.2 million in tax credits with the assistance of Clarion County Adventures.

(Who and what is ‘Clarion County Adventures?' Please see accompanying report on page XX.)

Funk said he believes Clarion Blueprint Inc. will receive a decision on that application in November.

In the meanwhile, but before Oct. 31, Clarion Blueprint Inc. must secure written letters from businesses and individuals who were included in the application as potential major donors to the effort.

Funk said while the application for NAP tax credits included the trail and overlook projects, the funding secured through the initial round the tax credit program will go entirely toward the proposed park.

Funk said Clarion Blueprint has secured "several hundred thousand dollars" in pledged donations.

Lots of ideas

Funk said Clarion Blueprint Inc. is just one of several groups in the county working to improve life and opportunities for all residents of the county.

Funk said the river overlook proposal has been around for a few years and does not entirely belong to the Blueprint group.

Funk said the overlook idea was included in a Sept. 1 copy of the tax credit application packet provided to Clarion Borough Council President Carol Lapinto, borough treasurer Todd Colosimo and council member Brenda Sander Dede, who also is president of Clarion Blueprint Inc.

The application was submitted to the state Department of Community and Economic Development by Clarion County Adventures, a separate entity under the umbrella of The Children's Scholarship Fund of Pennsylvania.

The Delta Development Group, working for Clarion County Adventures and not under Delta's contract with Clarion County, helped prepare the tax credit application.

Funk said Clarion County Adventures has the knowledge and experience in working with the NAP that Clarion Blueprint Inc. does not have itself.

Funk said Dede signed a letter of support for the tax credit application as president of Clarion Blueprint Inc.

Obtaining a letter of support from Clarion Borough Council was a formality intended to help the application and Funk said he had informed DCED the borough's letter would be submitted after the application was already sent it.

Borough council, however, declined to endorse the river overlook part of the application, saying it was not advised of the overlook proposal that would remove at least two properties from the real tax rolls.

Funk said he was a little surprised by some of the comments from the council meeting as Lapinto, Dede and Colosimo had the opportunity to review a copy of the application packet since Sept.1.