Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Photo by Mike Wolfe
The Shenango smokestacks were demolished in May of 2018.
By Jamie Wiggan
A brownfield site targeted by a coalition of regional stakeholders who hoped to steer the course of its development has been sold to Beaver County-based Lindy Paving, Inc.
Despite handing over nearly $5.5 million at the Nov. 6 closing, Lindy’s marketing director Jessica McKinney said the company has “no immediate plans” for the former Shenango Coke Works site on Neville Island.
Lindy, an affiliate of Pittsburgh-based construction firms P.J. Dick and Trumbull, specializes in asphalt production and operates an existing facility elsewhere in Neville Township.
Before closing in 2015, the coke works played a prominent role in the local economy for 54 years and had supported 173 jobs when it shuttered unexpectedly.
The site was demolished, remediated and put up for sale, at which point a coalition of environmental, developmental and municipal leaders formed the Shenango Reimagined Advisory Council in an effort to sway former owner Detroit-based DTE Energy into selling to a new owner sympathetic to their vision.
The council hosted a public meeting in February soliciting community input, which was incorporated into a site report prepared by the Delta Institute, a non-profit consultancy firm based in Chicago.
The 200-page report suggested 27 potential industrial uses for the 50-acre site that would support the local economy without taxing the environment. Broken into light, heavy and specialty uses, listed examples include steel fabrication, recycling operations and pharmaceutical packaging.
The recommendations in the report, which carry no legal authority, were directed at DTE to help market the site to preferable buyers.
McKinney declined to comment on whether Lindy intends to partner with the council or take on board any of their recommendations.
A representative from DTE energy, to which the report was addressed, said having rehabilitated the site before the sale in accordance with state and federal regulations, responsibility over the property now rests with Lindy.
“The sale on the property is final,” said Eric Younnan, a senior communications strategist at DTE. “Decisions regarding the future use of the property will be the responsibility of the new owners.”
Angelo Taranto, co-founder of Allegheny County Clean Air Now and a member of the advisory council, said he’s unsure of Lindy’s plans for the site, but permit requests filed by Lindy and obtained by his organization’s attorney through Right-to-Know requests suggest it may involve salt storage.
“We’re not really excited about [Lindy] owning the property,” Taranto said. “…We realized that once an industry is located on a site you never get proper regulation of it – we wanted to try to avoid that type of situation.”
Before Shenango shut down, Taranto’s organization campaigned against the plant's unclean emissions, and a separate advocacy group he is involved with – GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) – filed a lawsuit against DTE in 2014 that was eventually dismissed after the site’s closure.
Another advisory council representative, Roy Kraynik of the Allegheny Land Trust, said he does not yet know enough about Lindy’s intentions to weigh in on their purchase, but he remains hopeful it represents a change for the better.
“This is an opportunity to replace a user that was causing environmental impacts in air quality with something that won’t, or will contribute less,” he said. “We hope that the new user is going to do everything they can… to respect people’s right to clean air and clean water.”
State Rep. Anita Kulik (D-45), who is not on the advisory council but attended the February meeting, said she had received no details about the sale of the property.
“As a representative, I’m always happy to see new business coming to the district, and I hope that they use the site responsibly,” she said.