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Former Landis Tool building could become opportunity zone

August 27, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Some Waynesboro borough officials hope to create a hefty tax break for potential buyers of the former Landis Tool Co. site as a way to encourage redevelopment of the empty industrial plant.

Establishing a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) would eliminate many, if not all, state and local taxes for the Sixth Street property vacated by Cinetic Landis Grinding Corp. when it moved to Washington County this year.

"We've been trying to get something going on down there," Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said. "We don't want that property sitting vacant."

Borough council members recently said they plan to approach the Waynesboro Area School Board for support of the Keystone Opportunity Zone idea. The county, school district and borough would have to agree to the plan, then submit it to the state for approval.

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"The last time when we tried to get a KOZ for that area, the school district refused," Hamberger said, mentioning an effort in 2004.

The borough had approached the school board about supporting a Keystone Opportunity Zone of 8.6 acres behind the main Landis building, according to Caroline Dean, the school district's business administrator.

"There really was no potential business looking to build on the site at the time," she said.

If approved, that Keystone Opportunity Zone would have caused the school district to lose $3,770 per year from tax revenue until 2010-11, Dean said. The school board felt pressured by a deadline and asked the borough to look at a different program, she said.

The only Keystone Opportunity Zone in Franklin County exists on a portion of Letterkenny Army Depot that the government turned over to become what now is the Cumberland Valley Business Park. Two-hundred-and-eighty acres originally became a Keystone Opportunity Zone, although changes were made with the addition of a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

The Keystone Opportunity Zone remains in place through 2010, Ross said.

Ross explained that a Keystone Opportunity Zone works best when it draws interest to properties that normally would not attract investment.

"If it's possible to put the tool company into a KOZ, that would be the real intent" of the program, Ross said.

Municipal, county and school leaders must decide whether the redevelopment outweighs the tax money they would generate over the course of several years, Ross said. A redeveloped area relieved of tax burdens could generate new business off site, too, he said.

Intermec Inc. of Everett, Wash., holds a lease agreement with Cinetic Landis Grinding Corp. through the end of the year.

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