Wilkes-Barre council discusses senior housing, Irem Temple tax forgiveness

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected] | September 12th, 2017 8:57 pm

WILKES-BARRE — At least one city councilman isn’t happy with a proposal to build a senior living project in the Pine Ridge Estates development.

Councilman Bill Barrett expressed his dissatisfaction with the state of the development and said the housing project wasn’t a good fit. He spoke up during council’s work session Tuesday after attorney Frank Hoegen offered a few details about an estimated $15 million project to construct a three-story building with approximately 120 units on eight acres of the development in the Miners Mills section.

In the short term, Hoegen asked for permission to hold a public meeting. Looking longer term, he said the Clover Group Inc. would be asking for the project to fall under the state’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program. LERTA provides incremental tax breaks for 10 years on improvements to the land while still taxing the property.

“Tonight, I’m really just asking you for the authority to hold a public meeting at which time we will present much more information about the project,” Hoegen said. He has to make the same pitch to Luzerne County and the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, the other taxing bodies involved.

Council agreed to put Hoegen’s request on the agenda for a vote at Thursday’s public meeting.

But Barrett wasn’t in favor of selling land in Pine Ridge because the development has stalled short of the first phase of a three-phase process to build upscale homes on the reclaimed mine-scarred site.

“I don’t see this quite candidly as part of the original plan,” Barrett said, adding if the city wants to give tax incentives, “give it to somebody who wants to build a house there which is what it was originally supposed to be.”

In other business, none of the five council members voiced any concerns about forgiving $27,498 in taxes, penalties and interest on the former Irem Temple mosque on North Franklin Street for the years 2006 and 2007.

Wico van Genderen, president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said the building was placed on the tax rolls through a clerical error. It was tax exempt before the chamber’s real estate arm, the nonprofit Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corp., bought it in 2005 for $992,000 to protect the historic landmark and after it transferred it for $1 to the City of Wilkes-Barre Industrial Development Authority at the end of 2007.

“What I’m basically trying to do is just clean up all the books,” van Genderen said. Efforts are underway to determine the cost to restore the Irem Temple building and identify future uses.

Among the other issues on the agenda for Thursday is approval of a liquor license for the Turkey Hill convenience store at 1037 N. Washington St.

Wilkes-Barre city council will vote on a resolution Thursday night to forgive approximately $27,500 in taxes — levied through a clerical error — on the former Irem Temple mosque on North Franklin Street.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/web1_irem2tljpg.jpgWilkes-Barre city council will vote on a resolution Thursday night to forgive approximately $27,500 in taxes — levied through a clerical error — on the former Irem Temple mosque on North Franklin Street.

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.


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