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Fees and tees to play huge role in Pa. business park's future

April 08, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Waiving Greene Township impact fees and turning the Rocky Spring Golf Course into parcels for industrial development were two options for boosting Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority revenues at Monday's meeting of the board of directors.

There was a debate at the meeting about whether new businesses in the Cumberland Valley Business Park should be exempt from the township's transportation impact fees adopted last year.

"It's a big straw on the camel," said Sean Neill, a consultant with HR&A of New York who remarked that the fees were designed to slow residential growth.

Township Supervisor Charles D. Jamison disagreed, saying they were adopted to finance its $12.8 million transportation improvement plan to accommodate growth. After someone said Letterkenny Army Depot and the business park are assets to all of Franklin County, he said the entire county should share the cost if the township is expected to waive its fees.

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"If this is going to be a countywide project, let the county and the other municipalities involved step up to the plate," Jamison said.

To eliminate the fees for park businesses while leaving them in place elsewhere in the township would "open a Pandora's box," said Citizens For A Quality Environment Director DeEtta Antoun. Fred Antoun, an attorney who has represented the group, said the fees are "part of the cost of doing business" and not much of a barrier to potential buyers.

Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross disagreed, saying the fees could mean the difference between a sale and a business going elsewhere. Other marketing barriers include the park's distance from Interstate 81, its Superfund status and small parcel sizes, according to a summary of the business plan.

Pluses for LIDA have been growth at the depot, which has led to related businesses in the park and growth in the sale of utilities by the Franklin County General Authority, Neill said.

Critical capital improvements for LIDA include replacing a 50-year-old wastewater treatment plant, but Neill said the authority's financial position is good enough that it need only borrow $2 million to $3 million to help pay for the $6.4 million for that project and related utility improvements.

Since 1998, the authority has spent more than $19 million on utility, road and rail improvements, according to Neill's report. Van Horn said those improvements have largely been paid for by revenues from building and property sales and utilities.

Other options Neill outlined to boost land sales and development of the park included:

· Temporary financing for business coming to the park.

· Offering capital improvement and working capital loans.

· Discounted land prices to targeted industries.

· A joint venture with an industrial developer.

· Seeking renewal of the Keystone Opportunity Zone for the park, a program offering tax incentives to businesses, but which are due to expire in a few years.

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