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Board delayes decision on buisness park restrictions

March 19, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Developers of the Cumberland Valley Business Park may lose a potential tenant after the Chambersburg Area School Board delayed a vote last week on whether to remove restrictions it established for new businesses.

John Van Horn, executive director of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority, which is charged with redeveloping the park, asked the school board to vote last Wednesday to eliminate the local criteria it put in place in 1998.

The board voted to table a decision. It will be on the agenda, however, of a special meeting of the Chambersburg Area School Board March 27, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

The criteria was approved by the four bodies that tax the former Army land: The Chambersburg Area School District, Greene and Letterkenny townships and Franklin County.

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The restrictions only apply to the 283-acre parcel designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which offers state and local tax breaks for businesses locating in the zone through 2010.

"The main issue is three years ago when we approved the KOZ we did everything we were asked to do," Sponseller said. "We approved the local criteria recommended to us."

After marketing the land for four years with no success, Van Horn began asking the taxing bodies in June to remove the criteria, which place restrictions on the number of workers and salaries of businesses in the KOZ in an effort to bring in more high-paying jobs.

He asked the school board to put their faith in LIDA when it comes to selling the land.

"We all want the same things for the community," he said.

Van Horn said the LIDA board thought at the time the local criteria was agreed on it would help the area recover from the jobs lost when the federal government downsized Letterkenny Army Depot.

"There are two-thirds of the program left, let's make the best of it we can," Van Horn said Monday.

Mike Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation and a LIDA board member, told the school board LIDA stood to lose its first KOZ tenant unless they voted to remove the restrictions.

"They are anxiously awaiting the decision of this board tonight to see if it will break ground April 1 here or in Martinsburg, W.Va.," Ross said Wednesday.

Ross said the company is "very disappointed" at the school board's indecision and will make up its mind quickly if it will go forward with development in Franklin County or go with its second choice in West Virginia.

"The project is contingent at this point on the availability of the KOZ benefit. They have not completely ruled it out, but they have their own timelines," Ross said.

"We're trying to give them some level of confidence we will get this resolved favorably for them and others who would locate in the zone," he said.

If the school board votes to eliminate the restrictions, Ross said he believes the other taxing bodies would follow. If they don't remove the restrictions, the state Department of Community and Economic Development could take away the KOZ designation.

DCED recently ruled such local criteria go against the spirit of the act that created Keystone Opportunity Zones, Van Horn said.

"We're having a hard time getting people to invest in this land, and this is in an incentive tool we could use," he said.

Ross declined to name the company interested in locating in the business zone, but said it is a manufacturing company that would employ 20 to 25 employees at the site and represents a multi-million dollar investment.

"What is important to us is new construction and we believe this would be a catalyst for jump-starting new development in the park," he said.

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