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School board vote a victory for business park owners

March 28, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The authority managing growth at the Cumberland Valley Business Park won a major victory Wednesday night when the Chambersburg school board voted to remove local restrictions that could have nullified a tax-free zone in the park.

"I'm pleased," said John Van Horn, executive director of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.

The restrictions were set by the four bodies that tax the former Army land: The Chambersburg Area School District, Greene and Letterkenny townships and Franklin County. The criteria only apply to the 283-acre parcel designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which offers state and local tax breaks for businesses through 2010.

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.

The Department of Community and Economic Development told the school board in January such local criteria go against the spirit of the act that created the zones, and said it would decertify Franklin County's unless the restrictions were removed.

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Van Horn is still awaiting decisions from the other taxing bodies.

The school board debate Wednesday centered on whether it was fair to support a tax free zone for business while knowing it will have to raise property taxes in the upcoming budget.

"How can we tell taxpayers we are going to raise their taxes, but we're going to give businesses a free ride," board member Stanley Helman said.

Helman proposed to leave the restrictions in place and have the solicitor go back to the state to see if some criteria could be left in place, but his motion failed.

Member Thomas Orndorf's motion to lift all criteria passed 6 to 3.

"I don't think if we remove the restrictions there will be a lot of building, but I do think it will be a permanent tax source to help lighten the load on all taxpayers," board member Michael Finucane said.

This vote could open the door for new businesses to finally take advantage of the tax free zone.

One business that would employ about 25 people has been waiting for the school board's vote. Officials have refused to identify the business.

"We could enter into a sales agreement now, should the business decide they feel confident the others will remove criteria," Van Horn said.

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