lehighvalleynews

Hamilton Crossings TIF can proceed w/o Lehigh County support

Author: , WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published: Mar 13 2014 11:45:15 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 14 2014 12:47:57 PM EDT

Hamilton Crossings

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Developers of the Hamilton Crossings shopping center in Lower Macungie Township do not need Lehigh County’s participation in a tax increment financing plan, county commissioner Percy Dougherty told his colleagues during their Wednesday night meeting.

Dougherty’s comments raised some skeptical eyebrows, but were later confirmed by both county Executive Thomas Muller and Atty. John Lushis, solicitor for the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority, which developed the Hamilton Crossings TIF.

Dougherty said East Penn School Board and Lower Macungie commissioners are so in favor of the Hamilton Crossings project that “they don’t need our approval to go forward.”

For nearly a year, the Hamilton Crossings TIF plan has been presented as an all-or-nothing deal. All three local governing bodies – the township, count and school district -- had to “opt in” for the plan to proceed.

The actual plan states that Pennsylvania law requires the Hamilton Crossings TIF plan “be submitted for consideration and approval by all local governing bodies, in this case Lower Macungie Township, East Penn School District, and the County of
Lehigh.”

But the plan does not state the approval of all three governing bodies is needed for a TIF to proceed.

It also does not address what happens if one of them votes no, as Lehigh County commissioners did in June 2013, when they rejected the TIF by a 6-3 vote.

Lisa Scheller, chairwoman of the nine commissioners, said a request could be made to county commissioners that the TIF be reaffirmed “hopefully with a zero percent tax incentive from the county.”

She added: “The TIF cannot be approved without the county, but what they ask could be variable.”

But Dougherty said many people are under a misunderstanding that all three municipal bodies must approve the TIF.

“They don’t,” said Dougherty. “One body, the school board by itself, could approve it and that part would go through. So it’s not contingent on all three political units agreeing.”

“Are you sure of that?” asked Scheller. Dougherty said he was sure.

But he added the issue is so important that the county’s legal staff should give commissioners an independent legal opinion confirming his position. He said he will request that opinion.

Beyond confirming that Dougherty is right, both Muller and Lushis, who wrote the TIF plan, declined further comment Wednesday night.

In April 2013, the same month the industrial development authority approved the TIF plan, Lushis told county commissioners the Hamilton Crossings project could indeed legally move forward without the county’s involvement in a TIF.

But he also said all three government entities had to opt in for the plan to be financially successful and that it would not go forward if all three did not approve it.

The problem at the time was East Penn School District did not want to go forward as the sole participant in the TIF because “politically it would not work.”

East Penn School Board voted 6-2 for the TIF in May 2013.

Lushis had explained East Penn would be the sole participant if the county did not participate because Lower Macungie collected no property taxes from its residents and businesses.

However, that changed in January, when Lower Macungie implemented a property tax for the first time in 12 years.

When that tax was approved by a 3-2 vote, township manager Bruce Fosselman stressed it was not being imposed as any kind of incentive for the Hamilton Crossings project.

At least three of the five Lower Macungie Township commissioners are on record supporting the Hamilton Crossings TIF.

Pennsylvania’s TIF law would allow the developers to use 50 percent of increased property taxes from the shopping center to pay for infrastructure improvements for up to 20 years, rather than the county, township and school district immediately collecting 100 percent of dramatically increased property taxes.

As recently as last month, Hamilton Crossings’ developers publicly said what they have been saying all along: that they cannot build the $140-million project -- which would include a Costco, Whole Foods and Target -- without a TIF to help pay $7 million worth of public road, stormwater and utility improvements at the 63-acre site.

Dougherty indicated all the TIF funding should be used “for regional highway improvements that are going to help everybody, rather than go into the pocket of the developer.”

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ISIS video is counterpoint to Obama speech

52-second video plays much like a trailer for an action-adventure movie

Author: By Ed Payne CNN
Published: Sep 17 2014 07:49:40 AM EDT   Updated:  1 MIN. AGO
ISIS flag carrier
(CNN) -

The production is slick. The imagery: ominous.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is out with a new video from its Al Hayat Media Center. ISIS also produced the videos of the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker.

It took nearly a week, but this appears to be the terror group's response to President Barack Obama's speech in which he said the U.S. objective in expanded airstrikes would be to "degrade, and ultimately destroy" ISIS.

The President is expected to speak Wednesday about the U.S. strategy for combating ISIS, which also calls itself the "Islamic State."

The 52-second video plays much like a trailer for an action-adventure movie.

There are plenty of slow-motion explosions, and flames are shown engulfing American troops.

There are cameos from President George W. Bush and his "Mission Accomplished" banner, along with plenty of menacing fighters with masks over their faces, ready to execute civilians.

The producers even toss in a clip from Obama at the White House: "American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq," he says.

A lingering explosion puts an exclamation point on the whole thing.

And then the logo, fit for a Hollywood blockbuster: "Flames of War -- fighting has just begun ... Coming soon."

The video fades to black.

An ISIS magazine

Named after a town in northern Syria, Dabiq magazine publishes stories portending a battle between Islam and the West. It has portrayed Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona as "crusaders" who will "bring about the complete collapse of the modern American empire."

It also carries images evoking apocalyptic battles between the Sunni extremist group's fighters and the rest of the world, including American soldiers enveloped in flames.

ISIS is taking a page from the playbook of al Qaeda, a former ally that has praised and advocated terrorist attacks in its glossy magazine, Inspire.

But experts say the terrorist groups don't appear have the same propaganda goals.

Inspire focuses more on practical advice for terrorists planning attacks, publishing guides on how to make bombs and get them onto planes.

Dabiq is a vehicle intended to spark desire in its readers to join and fight with ISIS, said Seth Jones, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Kurds say they killed an ISIS commander

The Kurdish fighting force known as the Peshmerga killed an ISIS commander during battle Tuesday, according to a senior Peshmerga official who took part in the operation.

The Peshmerga killed ISIS commander Abu Abdullah during a Kurdish operation to push ISIS farther from Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, the official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday.

In the battle, the Peshmerga reclaimed five Iraqi villages as well as a bridge along the main highway linking Irbil to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, according to a senior Peshmerga official taking part in the operations.

The Peshmerga said the battle was meant to push ISIS fighters back toward Mosul, to the west of Irbil -- and part of the Peshmerga's larger plan to reclaim areas that ISIS claimed this year.

ISIS destroyed the bridge linking the two cities a month ago, hoping to prevent any opposing force from advancing on Mosul, but the Peshmerga said its forces went around the bridge for Tuesday's attack.

U.S. air power appeared to play a role in the offensive. Two U.S. airstrikes targeted an armored vehicle and ISIS fighting position northwest of Irbil, according to the U.S. military. That's the same area where the Peshmerga operation was under way.

 

On this Day

  • Civil War, Battle of Antietam painting

    Library of Congress

    On this day: September 17

    The U.S. Constitution is signed, the Civil War sees the bloodiest battle in American history, the prototype space shuttle Enterprise is unveiled, and the Camp David Accords bring peace between Egypt and Israel, all on this day.

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