Lehigh Valley

County council OKs expansion of Bethlehem tax-incentive zone

Northampton County Council voted 5-3 after debate

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council on Thursday approved a measure increasing the amount of property in Bethlehem that is eligible for a special tax-incentive program.

The Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance law, or LERTA, allows the city to offer tax exemption for deteriorated properties within a defined area. The designated area in Bethlehem includes neighborhoods west of Moravian College and between Broad and Laurel streets, among others.

LERTA offers tax relief to companies and individuals adding onto or doing major renovations on deteriorated properties in the area. If the property qualifies, a percentage of taxes on improvements are deferred and phased back over a 10-year period.

After nearly an hour of discussion and debate, the measure passed by a 5-3 vote. Council member Peg Ferraro was absent.

Council President John Cusick and council members Matthew Dietz and Hayden Phillips said LERTA wasn’t the right decision for Bethlehem.

Cusick questioned whether community development block grants wouldn’t be a better idea, citing a LERTA in Easton that was met with limited success. A better solution could also be to have the property values reassessed, he said.

“That’s what should happen,” Cusick said, “not a tax gimmick.”

Phillips also voted against the proposal, saying that it felt like picking winners and losers.

Council members Kenneth Kraft, Seth Vaughn, Mathew Benol and Robert Werner voted for the tax exemption. The bottom line was that the area needed help, they said.

Rebutting Cusick, Kraft said property values in the area would be assessed in time with improvements. Bethlehem would also fair differently than Easton’s smaller program.

“People are going to pick up on this,” he said.

Vaughn, who lived in the area of the LERTA, said he had seen the steady deterioration firsthand. Giving residents and businesses help to improve their properties would create a positive ripple effect in the community, he said.

“It’s kind of contagious in a sense,” Vaughn said.

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE  and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links may be removed by the moderator.

This Week's Circulars

Lehigh Valley News

Latest From The Newsroom