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Centre County discovers unaccounted-for land

Centre County recently discovered county-owned land in Bellefonte. The parcel, located near Wood and North Monroe streets, was the former site of the First Baptist Church of Bellefonte and has been vacant since 1979.
Centre County recently discovered county-owned land in Bellefonte. The parcel, located near Wood and North Monroe streets, was the former site of the First Baptist Church of Bellefonte and has been vacant since 1979. psheehan@centredaily.com

Late last year the Centre County planning commission was researching the possible re-zoning of the Centre Crest property and discovered an adjacent parcel of county-owned land that was unaccounted for.

The  1/2  acre property, which abuts the southeast corner of the Centre Crest property, is located near the corner of Wood and North Monroe streets.

Robert Jacobs, planning director said he consulted with county Solicitor Elizabeth Dupuis after making the discovery and she determined through county records that the land was “rightfully owned” by the county.

“The county has a pretty good hold on its assets, but this was just one of those situations where the record of the land fell through the cracks,” Jacobs said.

The parcel was the former site of the First Baptist Church of Bellefonte. In 1959, the church’s original building was constructed, Pastor Greg Shipe said. After construction of its current facility on Jacksonville Road in 1978, the original church was dismantled and the lot has been vacant since.

During the almost 20-year period the original church was functioning, the county leased the land to the church for $1. In 1979, the county regained sole ownership of the land, according to county tax documents.

Jacobs asked the county commissioners on Tuesday to approve a contract with Franson Engineering and Surveying for just more than $1,200 to establish the correct property boundaries. The board unanimously approved the contract.

The parcel of land is zoned multi-family residential, which provides the county with an opportunity to examine the feasibility of constructing affordable housing, according to Jacobs.

“Affordable housing is a difficult task in Centre County due to land prices and market-driven forces,” Jacobs said. “If the county has land available, this is an opportunity to explore and see what we can do with it.”

If used for multi-family housing, the lot could support 4-6 units, Jacobs said.

“This is the first step in the process,” Commissioner Michael Pipe said. “By no means are we saying that we are developing it, but we are basically getting ourselves acquainted and refreshing the survey.”

The county will also conduct a tax assessment on the property with the results and an update on the plans for the property expected from the board of commissioners in the coming weeks.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi

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