Jeannette officials consider special tax program to attract development

Jeannette officials are considering tax breaks in an effort to spur redevelopment in specific areas.

Establishing one or more Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance zones around the city could allow developers the opportunity to get a break on increased property taxes in exchange for investing in dilapidated parcels.

Fire Chief Bill Frye said officials are looking at possibilities on Clay and Chambers avenues, the old Fort Pitt Brewery off Penn Avenue, the industrial park and the former Monsour and Jeannette District Memorial hospital sites.

Solicitor Tim Witt said the LERTA program would not reduce taxes, but rather allow a developer who makes improvements to continue paying taxes on the original assessed property value. Council will set the parameters for a length of time for that to continue. After that time period is up, the developer will begin paying the full tax amount for the new assessed property value, Witt said.

“This program, at least, would ease them into it,” said City Clerk Nathan Bish. “I think, regardless of which way we go, it’s going to be beneficial.”

Several other municipalities around Westmoreland County have LERTA zones, including East Huntingdon, New Stanton and Scottdale. Brian Lawrence, director of the county’s redevelopment authority and land bank, said such opportunities can be a way to bring investment into places that need it.

“It can definitely improve the viability of a project,” he said.

The tax breaks help developers and can be a means of eliminating vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties.

“I think every community should be considering all the tools that are out there,” Lawrence said.

Frye took the issue to Jeannette City school directors earlier this month. A work group consisting of city council and school board members, along with potential investors, will form in the next few weeks, he said. Both the school district and county will have to sign off on enacting the LERTA.

That work group will be identifying specific zones as a first step. Public hearings will follow before the designation is up for a vote. Witt estimated the process could take at least four months.

”I think it’s a good program,” said Councilwoman Robin Mozley.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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