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Washington Twp. supervisor has concerns about economic development proposal

March 18, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Efforts to adopt a new tax abatement program in the Waynesboro area met resistance Monday in Washington Township during the first public hearing on the matter.

If a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Abatement (LERTA) program is put in place locally, eligible industrial or commercial property owners could receive tax savings for 10 years after making improvements to their properties. The owner would pay the same property taxes as he or she is today, but taxes on the improved portion would be discounted temporarily.

LERTA only affects improved portions of properties. Under LERTA, for example, if $100,000 worth of improvements are made on a $200,000 property, the owner could only pay full real estate taxes on the $200,000 — not $300,000 — for several years.

“It’s an economic development tool designed to facilitate investment. It’s one more economic development tool we can use as we attract businesses to the community,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp.

Realtor Tim Light called LERTA “something really positive to help the area.”

"I don’t see one thing negative about it,” he said.

Others, however, disagreed during a Washington Township Supervisors hearing.

Supervisor Stephen Kulla argued properties accepted into the LERTA zone have an unfair advantage. He illustrated his point when a picture of Buchanan Automative appeared in an PowerPoint presentation.

“What’s wrong with it? It’s been operating for dozens and dozens of years,” Kulla said.

Debate at the supervisors’ hearing continued past press time, as the board sought to decide whether to adopt LERTA and, if so, what properties to include.

Washington Township is just one entity involved in the LERTA creation process. Washington Township, the Borough of Waynesboro, Quincy Township and the Waynesboro Area School Board are attempting to work together.

Bernie McGarity is a partner in Encore Developers, which is seeking to bring a motel, strip mall, restaurants and senior housing to 26 acres near Walmart. He said the township’s traffic impact fees deter potential businesses from locating in the municipality.

LERTA incentives could offset the impact fees, McGarity said.

“They’re willing to come back and take a second look if we have the LERTA,” he said of potential businesses.

Discussions about LERTA started last October in the Waynesboro area. Those discussions came on the heels of LERTA zones being created within the nearby Greencastle-Antrim School District.

Waynesboro-area governing bodies are looking to create tax abatement where a property owner would pay 10 percent of taxes on improvements in the second year, 20 percent in the third year, 30 percent in the fourth year and so on.

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