Thursday, August 6, 2015

Florence approves 20-year tax break to developer

By Sean Patrick Murphy Staff Writer Burlington County Times
The Township Council voted 4-0 to approve a 20-year tax break to a developer with plans to build a large warehouse and logistics center off Cedar Lane near Route 130.
"It's a good thing for Florence Township with the tax abatement, it guarantees us a payment whether the company is in operation or not," said Mayor Craig Wilkie. "Many people don't realize that when taxes are set, they can be appealed if the property or business is not in operation.
"With the PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes), it's a guarantee payment, minimal, so it's a good thing for the community."
There was a public hearing and vote for final adoption Wednesday night.
Liberty Property Trust has proposed constructing as much as 760,000 square feet of warehouse, logistics, and office space on 50 vacant acres off the highway adjacent to the Cream-O-Land Dairy site and the Fire Department.
The project, the Cedar Lane South Industrial Park, is expected to create at least 276 full-time jobs, but is contingent on the municipality agreeing to a tax-abatement plan with the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based developer.
Liberty expects to break ground by October in hopes of opening the center by next September. The company plans to rent the proposed space to one or multiple businesses to use for product distribution.
It will become the latest of several industrial development projects that have been built or are near completion in the township's stretch of the Route 130 corridor. The other projects include a Subaru of America distribution center and warehouse complex, an Express Scripts plant, a Destination Maternity warehouse, and a new Burlington Coat Factory headquarters.
Hundreds of new jobs are attached to each of those projects, which local officials said would benefit the town and region.
The project is eligible for the tax break because it is within the township's Route 130 redevelopment area. The zone was created by ordinance in July 2013.
Although the agreement would excuse the developer from having to pay property taxes on the improved value of the 50 acres, it calls for Liberty to pay a quarterly "service fee" in lieu of taxes.
During the first 10 years, the fee, known as a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, will be based on the square footage of the constructed warehouse and office space. After 10 years, the fee will be calculated based on the square footage or a share of the total tax rate, whichever is higher.
About $3.7 million is expected to be paid to the municipality during the first 10 years of the agreement. A minimum of $5.2 million is expected during years 11 through 20.
Five percent of the service fee will be sent to Burlington County in lieu of county taxes. The remaining 95 percent will be divided among the local governing body, school district and fire district, officials said.
Liberty has not identified any tenants for the industrial park yet, but the company has a record of success, with more than 100 million square feet of industrial and office space developed in the United States and United Kingdom.
The company's past projects include redevelopment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in South Philadelphia.
The project received final site-plan approval from the Planning Board in May following two meetings.

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