Proposed Luzerne County tax break for mega-development debated

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Miles -

During his pitch for a third tax break Tuesday, developer Brent Miles wowed some Luzerne County Council members with a progress report.

About 2,000 jobs are being created by the three tenants — Chewy.com, Adidas and Patagonia Inc. — at the first project on 172 acres in Hanover Township, which is ahead of schedule, said Miles, of Missouri-based NorthPoint Development.

One of the three buildings at the second 330-acre project site along Route 29 in the township and Nanticoke is expected to be 1.2 million to 1.4 million square feet, which would make it the largest such structure in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Miles said.

He said he is in discussion with a “very, well-known company” to occupy this mammoth building, predicting an executed deal would attract national publicity due to the company’s identity, capital investment and jobs.

NorthPoint expects to begin construction shortly on that building and a second smaller one on the Nanticoke portion that already has attracted an unidentified tenant, he said.

The tax break he is seeking would be tied to the construction of three structures totaling 1.375 million square feet on a 150-acre township tract along Dundee Road. If approved, NorthPoint would pay taxes on the land, which is currently tax-exempt, and receive full county real estate tax forgiveness for seven years on new construction. The exemption would be 90, 80 and 70 percent in the final three years.

Approximately 4,000 jobs would be created in all three local NorthPoint projects combined, with NorthPoint investing $280 million and tenants spending another $100 million to $150 million, Miles said. A tax break is warranted to compete with incentives offered in other areas and encourage development of the challenging sites, he said, noting the third project area includes a large UGI Energy Services line through the center.

“Promises made. Promises kept,” Miles said of his company’s progress.

Council must approve the break at a future meeting for it to take effect.

Councilman Robert Schnee said he’s sold on the latest break because he believes Northpoint has “more than proven their worth in this area.” The buildings constructed so far are “absolutely beautiful,” he said, thanking the company for investing in this area.

“I say let’s go for it,” said Councilwoman Jane Walsh Waitkus, pointing to the creation of more, needed jobs.

Walsh Waitkus encouraged Miles to explore other ways to assist county government in exchange for the temporary tax forgiveness, such as helping to fund a county-owned infrastructure repair.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley asked about the length of the leases Miles is negotiating with the local project tenants. Miles said they have ranged from 12 to 18 years, which is longer than usual, in part because tenants want to protect their up-front capital investments.

Councilman Stephen A. Urban asked Miles to compile data on the compensation ranges for the thousands of jobs, and he emphasized the county does not receive wage taxes that help soften the blow of such tax breaks for municipalities and school districts. Councilman Harry Haas said he won’t support the break unless NorthPoint makes the proposal more favorable for the county.

In other business Tuesday, council:

• Heard a report on the need for a 911 radio communications system overhaul that may cost $20 million and require new borrowing.

• Failed for the third meeting in a row to come up with the required six votes to fill a citizen vacancy on the Convention Center Authority, which oversees the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township. With Councilman Eugene Kelleher absent, the vote was tied 5-5 for nominees James Reino and Neal DeAngelo.

• Approved Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck’s proposed administrative code amendment requiring more detailed monthly budget reports.

• Passed an agreement for the county Redevelopment Authority to fund the blighted property review committee’s legal and administrative services, which was needed for the committee to proceed with creation of a countywide database of abandoned, eyesore properties that may be addressed by the authority.

• Appointed Robert Bresnahan to an unpaid seat on the county Industrial Development Authority.

Miles
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Miles.jpeg.jpgMiles

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.