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County expands stimulus program to municipalities

November 07, 2012|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

A stimulus program started by Washington County in 2011 to attract new jobs and investment is being modified to include municipalities and better explain how those taking part in the program can take advantage of deferred county fees and get real estate tax credit.

Originally called the Pad-Ready Site Commercial Property Stimulus Program, the effort will now be called the “Commercial Property Stimulus Program” and will allow locations in the City of Hagerstown and other municipalities in the county to be part of the program. Until now, the program was offered only in the county, and not in its city or towns.

The program was designed to help developers create “pad ready” sites for commerical or industrial uses. A site is considered “pad ready” when it is ready for construction.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve changes to the program, which was originally approved in October 2011. Commissioner Jeffrey Cline was absent due to health reasons.

“The previous language was confusing. This better explains how to take advantage of the program,” said Sarah Sprecher, a spokeswoman for the county.

Sprecher said the program is designed to encourage builders to improve buildings that need redevelopment or get undeveloped land ready for construction.

The program, which is open to sites that are zoned as commercial, industrial or industrial-flex, will run for three years, but is not open to retail projects.

Projects that qualify get priority review by the Washington County Development Advisory Committee while county site-plan application and review fees are deferred.
 
Approved projects also get a property tax credit.

“The tax credit is to be 0.4 of a percent (.004 percent) of the construction cost of the new improvement and will apply for three years,” Sprecher said in an email.

A three-story office building under construction at Fountainhead Plaza near Hagertown is one of the first projects to take advantage of the program. The site previously was occupied by a Martin’s Food Market.

Projects that are in the Hagerstown-Washington County Enterprise Zone will not be eligible for the tax credit but can still take advantage of the deferred fees option, Sprecher said.

Businesses in the zone, which expanded to 4,100 acres in July, get a one-time $1,000 credit for hiring a new employee or $6,000 over a three-year period for hiring employees who are considered “economically disadvantaged.”

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