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County Council Approves Tax Abatement For Project

September 12, 2018

County Council Approves Tax Abatement For Project

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Council, over the vigorous objection of Councilman Harry Haas, on Tuesday approved a 10-year tax abatement plan for a proposed commercial development project in Hanover Twp. Council voted to defer tax revenue on new buildings constructed by NorthPoint Development on a 150-acre tract between the Sans Souci Parkway and South Main Street. The deferment, through the state’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program, will not apply to the land or existing structures. Council approved 100 percent tax abatement for the first seven years, followed by 90 percent abatement in year eight, 80 percent abatement in year nine and 70 percent abatement in year 10. Hanover Twp. and Hanover Area School District recently approved the same property tax abatement terms for NorthPoint, the Missouri-based firm that developed the commercial complex that includes chewy.com in Hanover Twp. NorthPoint also plans to develop a large commercial tract that stretches from Hanover Twp. into Nanticoke. All three taxing bodies previously approved 10-year tax abatement plans for that project. Haas on Tuesday lobbied hard for an amended plan that called for 30 percent tax abatement the first three years, 20 percent abatement in year four and 10 percent abatement in years five through 10. Haas said he had nothing against NorthPoint, but that Luzerne County and its taxpayers “deserve a better deal” and a tax abatement plan with terms more favorable to the county. “I am not a fan of corporate welfare but I am not an enemy of NorthPoint,” he said. Haas noted that commercial development along the Interstate 81 corridor is booming, and that if NorthPoint dropped its plans to build on the Hanover Twp. parcel, someone else would develop it. Granting long-term tax abatements to select developers is not fair to owners of other properties in the region that could also be developed commercially, he said. A council majority pointed to NorthPoint’s track record, starting with the chewy.com project, and noted the economic benefits the firm’s projects will bring to the county. Brent Miles, a NorthPoint executive, told council that the firm’s three commercial developments will generate $280 million in economic growth and create up to 4,000 jobs once they are completed. Councilwomen Jane Walsh Waitkus and Sheila Saidman noted that the county currently receives no tax revenue from the land Northpoint wants to develop, much of which is owned by the nonprofit Earth Conservancy. Waitkus said she does not want to see Northpoint choose to build in other counties, which offer more favorable tax deferment plans. “Do you really want to give jobs away to another county?” she said. “I am looking out for the residents of Luzerne County. … If we don’t vote for this, they will move on. I don’t want to gamble.” Council first voted down the amended plan Haas proposed, then voted 8-2 to approve the tax abatement schedule NorthPoint requested. Haas and Councilman Stephen A. Urban voted no. Councilman Edward Brominski was absent. Contact the writer: emark@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2117

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