Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The tiff over TIF continues

Citizens Against Tax Increment Financing is continuing its legal fight against the TIF for the Tanger Factory Outlets-Bass Pro development adjacent to The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Washington County Court initially tossed the group's lawsuit against South Strabane Township, Trinity School District and Washington County, and Commonwealth Court, which heard CATIF's appeal, upheld that decision. However, Commonwealth Court was sharply divided on the issue, so CATIF has taken its fight to the state Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case. The central issue in the court battle is whether the three taxing entities improbably issued a blight designation for the land where Tanger and Bass Pro intend to set up shop. Whether you agree or disagree with the common practice of issuing tax breaks to businesses in order to lure them in, it seems preposterous that the land on Race Track Road, adjacent to a racetrack that now offers slot-machine gamling and, no doubt, will someday offer table games such as poker and blackjack, was blighted. It is very clearly in a corridor that is highly ripe for development. It's not some rundown, abandoned mill site or slum that can in any way be called a blighted area. An unbiased look at the case would suggest that CATIF should have no trouble prevailing. However, big businesses and their supporters seem to have a way of winning these fights. In a dissenting opinion as part of last year's Commonwealth Court decision, Judge Dan Pellegrini had this to say: "TIFs are not granted so that a developer can develop a project more profitably - they are granted so that the public purpose of the elimination of blight can be accomplished. If a TIF is granted for property that is not blighted, the public is not receiving the 'bargain' to which it is entitled." Seems pretty clear, doesn't it?



Anonymous Eric said...

Not sure how it works in Pennsylvania, but in Alabama the statute defines "blight" to include "open" (undeveloped) land that "substantially impairs or arrests the sound economic growth of an area."

March 26, 2008 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Based on my readings of Pennsylvania Urban Revedelopment law, that is not the case here.

March 26, 2008 at 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to read interesting insight into how BassPro and Cabella's works the system at the expense of the little guy, read David Cay Johnson's "Free Lunch." Be ready to get sick over this and how the government gives away things tocorporations and sports franchises.

March 26, 2008 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

The entire TIF program is entirely wrong in the basic premise. Maybe I am wrong, but "blight" denotes a condition that is very dire, some hope for recovery because of slow degradation. But, "blight" is yet one more word whose definition has been distorted to meet agendas that otherwise would be passed over.

Developers claim the need of public breaks on monies owed, for the sake of bringing a business enterprise to an area. "Blight" has been used as a basis for retail and housing developments in nearby communities such as Mt. Lebanon. There is no covering for the real reason of asking for TIF relief. They are using a program for unintended purposes.

If local public officials wish to offer relief on taxes and infrastructure improvements, that is their choice. And, if the developers want to ask for these kinds of relief, they can do so. But, please, be upfront with the matter. Use "blight" for the rightful purpose, and don't try to obscure the real truth behind the offerings, and the requests.

March 27, 2008 at 9:26 AM  

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