Luzerne County Council approves Hanover Township tax break


By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com



After obtaining one more concession, a Luzerne County Council majority supported a controversial second tax break for a 172-acre Hanover Township tract.

Property owner Missouri-based NorthPoint Development had agreed to three changes before Tuesday’s council meeting: ending the break the end of 2026 instead of 2027, reducing the discount to 90 percent and then 80 percent in the final two years, and depositing $100,000 that must be turned over to the county if the company fails to submit a building permit application to the township within a year.

Councilman Rick Williams proposed a fourth change Tuesday requiring NorthPoint to obtain a township occupancy certificate or a certificate of substantial construction completion within three years to reclaim its $100,000 deposit. Williams said submission of a building permit is not enough reassurance that promised development will come to fruition.

Both the council and NorthPoint representative Brent Miles, who attended the meeting, agreed to the amendment.

A prior owner had secured a Keystone Opportunity Zone extension forgiving real estate taxes and most state taxes on tenants through 2024.

NorthPoint, which bought the Hanover Industrial Estates site for $15 million earlier this month, said an additional Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, or LERTA , break forgiving real estate taxes on new construction in 2025 and 2026 would help attract employers at four buildings it plans to construct at the site, creating 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs.

Officials in both the township and Hanover Area School Board have granted the LERTA break for their taxes without an expiration year, a deposit or reduced forgiveness in the final two years.

Three county council members voted against the final version: Eileen Sorokas, Stephen A. Urban and Harry Haas.

Councilwoman Kathy Dobash abstained because she works for a Hazle Township warehouse, and Miles could not rule out her employer as a potential future tenant at the Hanover site. Dobash also questioned the need for additional warehouse jobs and said she has witnessed warehouse workers treated “like mules” and “dropping like flies” because they can’t keep up with required production goals.

Haas praised NorthPoint’s professionalism and willingness to negotiate but said he believes the existing breaks are “more than enough” to attract tenants to the prime location easily accessible off Interstate 81.

Urban said NorthPoint owns the site and would build with or without the break. He also works in a warehouse and said he would only support tax breaks to create high-paying jobs that will keep college graduates in the area.

Miles said he expects to attract at least two manufacturers to the site in addition to e-commerce employers.

Several council members said they were torn before Williams’ amendment. Williams said the area needs more “specialty jobs” and noted there is an “abundance” of warehouses in the region.

The council tabled another proposal to accept Wilkes-Barre businessman Jim Casey’s offer to buy the county’s vacant juvenile detention center off North River Street in Wilkes-Barre for $20,000. The purchase would put the property on the tax rolls and save the county an estimated $400,000 to demolish the unused structure.

Casey wants to renovate the structure for a residential program for women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Councilman Eugene Kelleher said he wants more information on the feasibility of the proposed renovation project and potential security concerns due to the building’s proximity to the county prison on Water Street. Kelleher said past and present prison workers informed him people standing on the juvenile property have thrown rocks and objects containing drugs into the prison yard below.

Several citizens also urged the council to re-list the property seeking additional offers, saying they believe the purchase price is too low.

In other business, at least four council members provided the necessary votes to introduce two ordinances that would:

• Transfer supervision of security guards from the operational services division head to the sheriff. Sheriff deputies provide security inside courtrooms, while security guards man the entrances to county buildings.

• Set limits on council member discussions with the county manager and his staff outside council meetings.

A council majority must support the ordinances at a future meeting for them to take effect.

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By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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