County council to mull proposed tax break for 330-acre site

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
The development company that brought pet-supply retailer Chewy.com to Hanover Township is seeking a tax break for another 330-acre tract in the township and Nanticoke. - Luzerne County assessment photo

The Missouri-based development company that brought online pet-supply retailer Chewy.com to Hanover Township is seeking a tax break for another massive tract it may purchase in the township and Nanticoke for another project, according to officials and records.

Proposed by NorthPoint Development, the new project would involve three new buildings and be located on approximately 330 acres currently owned by the nonprofit Earth Conservancy, records show.

NorthPoint is surveying the site and performing other due diligence as part of its potential purchase, Earth Conservancy Executive Director Mike Dziak said Friday.

The partially wooded tract runs along Route 29 on the east side and will connect to the new South Valley Parkway that is under construction. It is also accessible from Kosciuszko Street near the Lexington Village residential development and across from Luzerne County Community College, maps show.

Earth Conservancy has reclaimed parts of the mine-scarred site, which was prospected for coal but never used for extensive strip mining, Dziak said. A portion of the property is currently used as a construction staging area for the new parkway, he said.

The nonprofit has long marketed the site for development, and NorthPoint would be an ideal buyer, said Dziak. NorthPoint’s 172-acre tract in the Hanover Industrial Estates housing Chewy.com and eventually other buildings was once Earth Conservancy land.

“They’re doing quite a job,” Dziak said. “Another project could result in a lot more jobs and economic development.”

The Chewy.com property has been assessed at $37.96 million. It has full Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) tax exemption through 2024 and a real estate tax discount ranging from 80 to 100 percent, depending on the taxing body, in 2025 and 2026 for the structure only under a different incentive program.

The incentive applying to the structure but not land is known as a state Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assessment, or LERTA.

Luzerne County Council members are scheduled to discuss NorthPoint’s request for another LERTA for the 330-acre site at their meeting Tuesday.

NorthPoint is seeking 100 percent forgiveness on new construction for 10 years, the agenda says.

Impact projected

If the proposed project proceeds as planned, the county, township and Hanover Area School District could start receiving a combined $780,000 in real estate tax revenue in 2028 from a new 1.3 million square-foot building, according to NorthPoint’s tax analysis attached to the council agenda posted at www.luzernecounty.com.

A second 307,000 square-foot building would yield $184,200 for these taxing bodies in 2030, the analysis said.

The third 507,000 square-foot building would be in Nanticoke and generate a combined $329,550 for the city, county and Nanticoke Area School District when it is added to the tax rolls in 2029, the projection shows.

The document does not detail the projected job creation or type of employers NorthPoint anticipates attracting to these structures, and a company representative could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Council’s proposed ordinance indicates the break already has been approved by the other taxing bodies.

Hanover Area School Board President John Mahle said the project was embraced for new jobs and economic development.

“When they’re on the tax rolls, it will be a lot of money for the district,” he said.

Critics have maintained tax-break programs unfairly give select properties a government-funded competitive advantage, while supporters argue much of the development here wouldn’t exist without tools to attract employers and developers who are offered incentives in other states.

In other business, county council also is set to discuss the proposed settlement of 2011 litigation filed by Francis Lombardo. The administration does not release settlement amounts until voting meetings.

Lombardo alleged he was assaulted by two county prison guards in 2009 and 2011 without provocation and that his requests for treatment were ignored by prison officials at that time.

The development company that brought pet-supply retailer Chewy.com to Hanover Township is seeking a tax break for another 330-acre tract in the township and Nanticoke.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_chewy-1.jpegThe development company that brought pet-supply retailer Chewy.com to Hanover Township is seeking a tax break for another 330-acre tract in the township and Nanticoke. Luzerne County assessment photo

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

IF YOU GO

Luzerne County Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

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

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