Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Council disapproves of NIZ

Northampton County Council disapproves of NIZ

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council says it disagrees with the NIZ but not they will not join the lawsuit against Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

Twelve muncipalities have joined the lawsuit so far.

Northampton County Council has yet to go that far but Thursday night they did agree by a 5-4 vote to send a position paper to the state stating they're against it.

"There is a huge hole in Allentown and no one is going to win if it doesn't get fixed, but the problem is deeper than just the hole," said councilman Robert Werner.

Leave it to Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone to hijack a Northampton County Council meeting.

"I don't want to see this thing die but I want to see us get treated fairly," said councilman Scott Parsons.

The issue at hand: should council oppose the 130-acre specially created tax zone created in the city of Allentown?

Many members on council agree the NIZ is too large and needs to be reduced. It was created unfairly and could hurt development outside of Allentown.

But head of Allentown's Department of Community and Economic Development Sara Hailstone stressed to council, the NIZ is a finite area in downtown and only several square blocks along the water front.

"It's not large enough to have a material impact on the Lehigh Valley real estate market," she said.

Developer J.B. Reilly, who has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in downtown development, told council only 26 out of the river front's 130 acres could be developed and says the Queen City needs this boost.

"It needs help and frankly it's very hard to get anyone to move into Allentown," he said.

Council did say it's not out to hurt Allentown but it does not agree with how the NIZ was created.

Many are hoping it get works out.

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