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Lebanon County approves another LERTA for development property

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Another property has been cleared for tax breaks in Lebanon County.

County commissioners on Thursday approved a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance designation for three adjoining properties in Union Township just off Interstate 81, a designation developers hope will attract companies to consider the properties for warehouse construction.

There are three properties within the designation. Two of them are owned by national firm Panattoni Development Co., and another is owned by Vision Group Ventures in Plymouth Meeting. With LERTA approval, Dan Hudson, representing Panattoni, said he would hope the market for the properties would be hastened.

“It’s been slow,” he said of the prospects of the property currently. “Our hope is by the summer or the fall to be in construction.”

With LERTA, local taxing bodies — the municipality, county and school district — forgive improved property taxes on a sliding scale for a previously determined amount of time. For the Union Township property, off Exit 90 of I-81 and directly behind the Love’s Travel Stop, taxes would be forgiven over a 10-year period in 10 percent increments.

During the first year of construction, the property would pay only what it pays in property taxes now — about $35,000, according to Lebanon County assessment records. Each subsequent year, it would pay a 10 percent increase until reaching the full value — about $893,000 in 2024 if construction starts in 2014, according to developer estimates.

On Dec. 11, Union Township supervisors approved the LERTA designation. Now the property’s developers will seek approval from the Northern Lebanon County School District to have all three local taxing bodies approve the LERTA. Development officials said they hope to be in front of the district’s school board in January.

In the fall the board approved a LERTA for the proposed Lebanon Valley Distribution Center in Bethel Township. Officials for the center plan to build a 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse on the site. The county also approved the site, as did Bethel Township.

Camp said he believes if the properties are developed, it would add about 500 to 600 jobs to the county’s workforce.

William Ames, chairman of the Lebanon County Board of Commissioners, said he has to “swallow hard” to approve the LERTAs the county has supported over the last year because he knows how hard it is for many families in the county to pay taxes.

“But I know we’re entrapped now,” he said, noting that other areas use LERTA, so Lebanon County must use it or risk losing development projects and their future tax revenue to areas that have embraced LERTA’s benefits.

Officials also said Thursday the commissioners’ vote for the 2013 Lebanon County budget is scheduled for Dec. 26. The preliminary budget calls for no tax increase.

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