LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Four weeks ago, township council voted to join Hanover Township, Northampton County, and Bethlehem Township in a legal fight against Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone.
Wednesday night, council members offered more than just words of support. After a brief executive session, they voted 5-0 to contribute up to $10,000 to the cause.
The NIZ "needs to be nipped in the bud," said council president Glenn Kern after the vote. "Agreed," said vice president Thomas Maxfield.
The unique district was created by the state legislature to help finance an 8,500-seat hockey arena in downtown Allentown for the Philadelphia Flyers' top minor league club, the Phantoms.
Earned income tax money from people who work in the zone would go to Allentown instead of where the workers live.
This especially rankles Kern and other members of council because Lower Saucon collects one-quarter of one percent of the earned income tax to preserve open space. "This is highjacking funds," Kern said.
Kern could not say how long council members expect the $10,000 to last before they are asked for more money.
Municipalities are waiting for figures from Allentown so they can determine how much the NIZ will cost them. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski recently said the numbers would be available by June 1.
Sen. Pat Browne, who wrote the law creating the zone, has predicted communities could get all of their earned income tax money back about nine months later than usual, because he expects the arena project to generate new tax revenues.
In other business, council voted to spend up to $3,750 on concrete monuments to mark borders on a 75-acre tract of land along the north side of Easton Road, from Countryside Lane to Lower Saucon Road.
The township is in the process of negotiating a $330,000 conservation easement with land owner Dennis Benner that will insure all but three acres of the tract will remain as open space. Maxfield said water resources and wildlife habitat will be protected by the easement.
The concrete markers would better reinforce where the boundaries are than cheaper iron pipes, council decided.
Council also voted to spend $987 to have asbestos removed from a township-owned brick home on Polk Valley Road. The township acquired the home about seven years ago, as part of a deal for 11 acres to expand Polk Valley Park.
Kern said the home has been on the market for about a year, and is in "rough shape." He said the township is still looking for someone to make an offer, and then move it or demolish it.
Township manager Jack Cahalan said the home was built in the 1800s and is structurally sound, but lacks electricity, heat and a septic system.
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