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School Director Asks East Penn Board to Change Vote on Costco TIF

East Penn School Director Lynn Donches wants a motion on the board's next agenda rescinding East Penn's approval of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan being put forth to help fund the Hamilton Crossings project.

East Penn School Director Lynn Donches wants the board to take back its approval of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan put forth by the developers of the $140 million Hamilton Crossings project in Lower Macungie Township.

Donches made the request at the end of Monday's school board, asking that a motion be put on the agenda for the board's Feb. 10 meeting.

Donches' request was quickly rebuked by Board President Alan Earnshaw who told her that she was not authorized to make the motion since she did not previously vote in favor of the TIF. Only someone who did could ask the board to revisit the issue, he said. 

Under the TIF plan, the government bodies that would ultimately benefit from the tax revenue generated by Hamilton Crossings – East Penn School District and Lehigh County – need to agree to give up 50 percent of those tax dollars for a 20-year period to help the developer get the project off the ground.  

The East Penn School Board voted in favor the TIF in May 2013. The approval of Lehigh County and Lower Macungie Township is also needed in order for the TIF to become a reality.

In real terms, this means that during the 20 years of the TIF's existence, about $7 million in tax dollars would be diverted to the developer to cover costs. On the flip side, East Penn would take in about $600,000 per year and the county about $135,000 per year on a property currently owned by the Diocese of Allentown that generates little tax revenue.

However, the TIF plan was derailed in June when it failed to garner the approval of the Lehigh County Commissioners. Lower Macungie Township never officially voted on the TIF plan since it is not allowed to vote until after the school district and the county give it the green light. 

The TIF plan may bubble up again at the county level, through the efforts of County Executive Tom Muller who has helped to bring about an upcoming Feb. 3 public meeting on the Hamilton Crossings Project and the Tax Increment Financing plan.

The Hamilton Crossings retail complex would include Costco, Target and Whole Foods among its anchor stores, according to the developers. 

Garrett Rhoads February 04, 2014 at 04:36 AM
Makes perfect sense to me. Why wouldn't we want to give away $7 million dollars to an out of state developer who has paid for his privilege through political contributions? This development will happen with or without a TIF. Our School Board has a storied history of not asking any hard questions and simply voting in a way that makes their political handlers happy. No developer ever gets this far without a deliberate intent to build. Ballard, Bacher, Earnshaw, Rhodes, Heid, Munson, Vinoskis, and Fuller are all too happy to give away $7 million dollars in tax revenue that could help to educate our children in order to line the pockets of their campaign funds/backers. Any commercial developer KNOWS exactly what they are getting into at the beginning of any deal. The need for a TIF is a financial sham. Look at the campaign finance reports. See for yourself.
ted.dobracki February 04, 2014 at 08:30 AM
1) The TIF can likely continue without LC approval. (for more details, see: http://emmaus.patch.com/groups/teddobrackis-blog/p/will-east-penn-school-district-be-caught-holding-the-bag-alone-for-hc-tif_48c244d8 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 2) EPSD might not be able to withdraw from the TIF. If they did, the developers and their partners might be able to recover damages for all the extra work they have done relying on the fact that EPSD's contribution to the TIF was still available. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 3) And finally, an interesting parliamentary question is what would happen if one of the new school board members (who obviously wouldn't have voted for or against the TIF previously) asked to revisit the issue? Would Mr. Earnshaw allow that? In most legislative bodies, a re-organized body is a new body and rules about who can make motions to reconsider start all over again, so even Mrs. Donchez could properly make a motion. (although, under the circumstances I don't think it would be wise to reverse course, even though I was against TIF in the first place)

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