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It's Time to Talk Costco Again

There is a public meeting on the Hamilton Crossings Project and the Tax Increment Financing plan the developers need to fund the project set for Feb. 3.

Buck up, warehouse shopping club fans. There's still a chance that you will be able to buy giant boxes of cereal, super-sized jugs of laundry detergent and massive quantities of toilet paper at your very own Lehigh County-based Costco.

Chatter on the highly anticipated Hamilton Crossings retail center in Lower Macungie Township largely died down since last June when Lehigh County Commissioners voted against the Tax Increment Financing plan being put forth to fund the $140 million project. But, according to a post made on Friday to the Hamilton Crossings Facebook page, it's time to start talking about the TIF again.

The first step in reopening the discourse will be an upcoming meeting at Muhlenberg College in Moyer Hall, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 3, according to the post, which is signed Jeremy and Tim -- presumably Hamilton Crossings developers Jeremy Fogel and Tim Harrison.

That meeting, the post says, is being put forth by new Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller, described in the post as "outspoken regarding his support for the TIF."

The post says that since so much time has gone by, Muller has decided to hold a public meeting to bring the previously much-talked about project back into the limelight and revisit the request for the TIF.

The Lehigh County Commissioners have all been invited to the Feb. 3 meeting, the developers write in their Facebook post, and in it they reinforce their position that the TIF is needed in order to move forward with the Hamilton Crossings project. In addition to Costco, the mall is expected to bring other big name retailers like Target and Whole Foods. 

"We continue to need TIF funding to close the project’s financial gap and allow the project to be financed," they write. "We have continued working to address concerns posed by County Commissioners, in regards to obtaining their support and participation in the TIF plan.

"This meeting represents another opportunity for you to ask questions and, hopefully, voice your support for the Hamilton Crossings Development project," the developers write on Facebook.

Under the TIF plan, the government bodies that would have ultimately benefited from the tax revenue generated by Hamilton Crossings – East Penn School District and Lehigh County – needed to agree to give up 50 percent of those tax dollars for a 20-year period to help the developer get the project off the ground.  East Penn approved the TIF last May.

In real terms, this would have meant that during those 20 years about $7 million in tax dollars would have been diverted to the developer to cover costs. On the flip side, East Penn would have taken in about $600,000 per year and the county about $135,000 per year on a property currently owned by the Diocese of Allentown that generates very little tax revenue. 

Moyer Hall at Muhlenberg College is located near the Haas College Center, the College's main administration building. The address is 2400 Chew Street, Allentown. 

car nut January 28, 2014 at 09:56 AM
Here we go again talking about this TIF BS. The East Penn School Board is talking about a tax increase, and yet are willing to give up tax dollars for 20 years, so developers can build another future failure like the Promenade Shoppes in Upper Saucon Township. Why don't Lower Macungie and Lehigh County chip in some dollars so residents can open businesses. I think we could find many people who would be interested in this when they would get free money. Let's build a hockey arena and compete with Allentown.
Jason George January 28, 2014 at 02:23 PM
The TIF is being used to blackmail the community - "you will get more money if you let us pay less" - similar to stadium funding. I hope some smart people in the area show up at this and oppose the TIF, if not the whole project. I feel like most people don't realize there's $2,750,000 in state grant money, as well as $6,400,000 in a transportation grant, these people want to spend as well.
Mark Spengler January 28, 2014 at 03:51 PM
At the moment this land generates barely any tax revenue for East Penn. If the project moves forward it will produce $600,000 per yr. for 20 years and $1.4 million after that. So in reality the district is receiving a net gain as opposed to a loss. However, if you believe somebody will do this without the TIF than it would be considered a loss. When you consider that the Lower Mac. planning commission has been saying for years that this land would never be developed due to the need for remediation and also consider that others had the ability to develop the land but decided not to do so, I'm not sure that is such a good bet. The Cedar Realty offer to do the same project without the TIF is a joke since they have a contract with Giant that would never allow such a move.
Jason George January 28, 2014 at 04:13 PM
I agree with Mark's comment above and would add to it that there is somebody who would do this project without the TIF: the Goldenberg Group, the people who are proposing it in the first place. Why would they give up on a presumably profitable concept for a meager 5% of the funding (which really goes toward paying the bonds). Especially if they get over $9,000,000 for things related to the project.
LMTnative January 29, 2014 at 08:14 AM
The TIFF is a bad idea. The project should live or die on it's own merits without corporate welfare. It's setting a bad precedent and could result in more development projects jumping on the bandwagon or worse yet seeking reimbursement of previously completed or approved projects (i.e. Giant). If I were Giant or any other developer who completed a project in the township without corporate welfare I'd sue to receive the same benefits and level the playing field. Imagine all of Jaindl's new developments receiving the same benefits??? You're setting us up for disaster.

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