Bethlehem Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

Lehigh County: Proposed shopping center needs TIF

Thursday, May 23, 2013 by ANDREW CASS Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The Lehigh County Commissioners had the first reading and discussion of a tax increment financing (TIF) plan for the proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center at its May 8 meeting.

The proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center is located along Krocks Road between Route 222 and Hamilton Boulevard in Lower Macungie. The shopping center would include a Target and a Costco.

The currently vacant land brings in about $57,000 in property taxes for the East Penn School District and Lehigh County. The proposed $140 million shopping center would significantly raise the real estate taxes on the land. Under the TIF, 50 percent of the tax revenue from Hamilton Crossings over the next 20 years will be used to help pay for the project. During that time, the East Penn School District would receive about $570,872 in tax revenue annually. Lehigh County would receive about $135,000 annually. After the 20 year TIF ends, the school district would receive $1,289,084 annually and the county would receive $294,120 annually.

Developers said the project would not happen without the TIF, which will be used to help pay for infrastructure upgrades such as road improvements, storm water improvements and utility upgrades.

In order for the TIF to go into effect, the developers need approval from the East Penn School District and Lower Macungie Township as well as the commissioners. East Penn was expected to vote on the plan at its May 13 meeting. If approved by the school district, the county commissioners would then vote May 22. Lower Macungie commissioners are the last to vote on the plan.

Commissioner Michael Schware said the project was a good idea.

"My wife likes it more than I do," Schware said. "She can't wait to go to Costco."

Schware, however, said he had a problem with the TIF.

"I understand there are infrastructure issues with the property, but I don't necessarily think that should fall back on the county to give up a portion of the tax revenue to help fund it," Schware said.

Schware added that he doesn't think the county should be at the same percentage as the school district or township.

"We don't share some of the other revenues they get," Schware said. "Personally I think out percentage should be zero. If the school district and township wanted to try and go along with it that's fine, I wouldn't try to block it, but I don't think we should be giving up one dollar of tax revenue for this project."

East Penn School Board Member Ken Bacher, who was part of the TIF advisory committee, said the project is a significant tax savings and will help keep the tax rate down for East Penn's constituents.

"I strove very hard to make protections for the tax payers and I think that's reflected in the product," Bacher said.

The next commissioner meeting will be held May 22 in the public hearing room of the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown.