WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP � General McLane School District�s directors could be making a big mistake � possibly $2.25 million big � by not jumping on board with re-implementing tax reductions for commercial development in Washington Township�s targeted growth zone, according to township officials.

If the township can demonstrate that its roughly $3 million state Department of Environmental Protection-ordered sewage expansion project will encourage more commercial development, the township may be eligible for a Pennworks grant that could cover up to 75 percent of that project�s cost, according to township Manager Dave Anthony.

But to potential developers looking to build before that new infrastructure�s in place, there�s really not much incentive without an offered tax break, he said recently.

Between 1993 and 2004, the block targeted for development near the Interstate 79 and Route 6N interchange provided approximately 150 acres of tax-reduced Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act District (LERTA) property.

A request by township and Erie County officials to re-implement the district failed unanimously at a General McLane School Board public meeting in Oct. 2005. Anthony said he and other township and county officials have since come before the board to request a review of that decision.

In a letter dated March 10 from McLane Business Manager Jeffrey A. Fox to Daryl Terella of the Erie County Economic Development Corp., Fox stated the board isn�t planning any further action on the request.

�The LERTA district was first established ... to encourage commercial development and by 2002 it was evident that its purpose was fulfilled,� wrote Fox.

But �if it�s fulfilled its purpose, it�d be full,� said Anthony, adding only about one-quarter of the roughly 150-acre former LERTA district has been commercially developed.

�The (possible) Pennworks grant is in serious jeopardy if we can�t demonstrate� that the other three-quarters of that land will be developed, he said.

The former LERTA district offered five-year incremental tax reductions on commercial buildings, according to Anthony. That means commercial buildings would be tax-free in the first year and at 100 percent taxable status by the fifth year.

Fox and General McLane Superintendent Alan J. Karns weren�t available for additional comment recently.

Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 287 or by e-mail at rsmith@meadvilletribune.com


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