Bethlehem commissioners slash tax credit for Freemansburg complex

Author: , WFMZ.com Reporter
Published: Nov 05 2013 12:14:34 AM EST   Updated On: Nov 05 2013 06:26:04 AM EST
BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. -

The Bethlehem Township Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to nearly halve the amount of tax credits given for the development of Madison Farms’ Field of Dreams complex on Freemansburg Avenue Monday night.

Developer KRE Group had requested a tax credit of over $646,000 for the project but the board opted to follow the recommendations of the Parks and Recreations board and reduce that figure to $348,000.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” said one community member during the courtesy to the floor session. “We have to start getting some funds back.”

Multiple board members raised questioned whether the property, which features a large commercial area, would actually be providing the community a tangible benefit to warrant its’ significant tax credit.

“While you may be providing bike lanes and wider sidewalks I don’t see it as a destination to [outside] residents,” said Vice President of the Board Michael Hudak. “Your community will be using them, not the township.”

The Field of Dreams complex will be built along the north side of Freemansburg Avenue just west of Route 33. It will feature nearly 837 homes and 140,000 square feet of commercial space as well as bike lanes and pathways for community members.

Board member Martin Zawarski questioned whether the alleged common spaces would be accessible to those who did not reside in the complex.

“What percentage of [the common space] will be available to the outside residents?” said Zawarski. “Minimal I think.”

Other board members questioned the timing of the request.

“This is the first time in years that we’ve had this come up as an issue after the fact,” said Board member Thomas Nolan.

KRE Group representative Ed Murphy insisted that the developer had made a “good faith effort” to accommodate the Board’s previous recommendations and reach a compromise.

“We are not looking to avoid our obligation. I think there was an honest back and forth,” said Murphy citing the addition of various walkways as per the request of the Bethlehem Township Commissioners back in March of 2006. 

The Planning Commission submitted a recommendation in favor of granting the full tax credit amount to KRE Group, but the Board ultimately went the other say.

“I kind of agree that what is here is an amicable solution and agreement,” said Board of Commissioners President Paul Weiss. He cast the sole dissenting vote against the tax credit reduction.

The development of the Field of Dreams complex had been previously held up by a legal challenge from Raymond Russin, a resident from the nearby Wagner Farms complex.

Raymond is now running as a candidate for Bethlehem Township Commissioner, while Weiss is in the middle of a write-in campaign to maintain his post as Fourth Ward Commissioner. Their election hits the ballots this Tuesday.