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Editor's Voice: A golden opportunity

Posted 7/16/13

The authority that operates Harrisburg International Airport owns about 114 acres of land in Middletown, Highspire and Lower Swatara Twp. that it wants to designate as a Keystone Opportunity Zone to attract developers. The designation, a state …

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Editor's Voice: A golden opportunity

Posted

It’s an excellent way to develop land that’s currently unusued. Among the sites proposed for the special zone:  the old Crawford Station land in Middletown, property in Highspire once used by Bethlehem Steel Corp., and the old terminal at HIA. The idea is being promoted by the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority.

There have been zones in 12 regions in Pennsylvania since 1999, when the program began, but legislation passed in 2012 allowed the state Department of Community and Economic Development to extend the zones. Businesses in the zones can be exempt from state taxes partially or completely, and local real-estate taxes for 10 years, an incentive to build.

The authority property is tax exempt already, so the effort to develop it and generate tax revenue 10 years from now is even more enticing. “Right now, this is nothing but land,’’ said Highspire Mayor John Hoerner. “If it stays like this, we’re never going to get anything for it anyhow.’’

Highspire Borough Council and the Steelton-Highspire School Board have approved the effort. Lower Swatara Twp.’s commissioners are scheduled to vote on it at a meeting Wednesday, July 17.  Middletown Borough Council and the Middletown Area School Board will consider the issue later this summer.

So far, the plan has been met with little opposition. Two Highspire council members opposed it – “Everyone in town has to pay taxes,’’ said Councilwoman Dorothy Matsevac, who was uncomfortable giving a 10-year tax break to a developer. But if that’s what it takes to spark development on long-unwanted land, we think it’s a great idea and a benefit to the community.

It should be approved.

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