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Norwin Towne Square project's tax-break issue raised

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A five-year tax break for a property in North Huntingdon has upset at least one member of Irwin council.

John Cassandro, council president, suggested proposing a resolution to oppose the tax break given to developers of Norwin Towne Square. Other council members questioned the purpose of such a resolution during a workshop meeting Thursday night.

“We can take a stance and oppose it,” Cassandro said. “It would just be a statement for us to make to state our displeasure if we are displeased with it.”

Although the resolution will not appear on a meeting agenda this month, Cassandro said it could be voted on later.

Last November, North Huntingdon commissioners declared Norwin Towne Square, the 1950s-era plaza on the west end of the township, blighted and deteriorated.

The designation made way for commissioners to approve a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, or LERTA, tax abatement. It was subsequently approved by the Norwin School District.

That means new construction or improvements at the site are tax exempt for five years. The actual land value is not included.

Cassandro said he takes issue with the break because the Norwin School District, which includes Irwin, will be losing out on tax revenue during those five years. And in the long run, Irwin borough will not receive tax revenue from the properties.

“How does that help Irwin?” Cassandro said. “We could do a resolution opposing it if we wanted it. It would be speaking our mind, which we probably should do.”

Several council members appeared apathetic after debating the purpose of the resolution.

Deborah Kelly, council vice president, disagreed with Cassandro.

“They're improving the property and, in five years, they're going to have a million-dollar property that they're going to be paying taxes on,” she said.

One of the partners for Colony Norwin, which has a sales agreement to buy Norwin Towne Square, estimated the company will invest between $12 million and $15 million to rejuvenate the complex.

Work has begun on the plaza located along Route 30 between Malts Lane and Lincoln Way. Plans for Norwin Towne Square include demolishing part of the plaza, adding a grocery store and building a car dealership. The Shop 'n Save planned is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The Bob Massie Toyota dealership planned for the development likely will be completed by this fall.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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