Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lower Saucon to Join NIZ Litigation

Following an executive session, Lower Saucon Township Council has decided to join in a legal challenge to Allentown's EIT tax grab for the purpose of financing a downtown hockey arena and 7-story hotel.

The vote was unanimous, at the end of a lengthy meeting involving numerous land planning issues. Ironically, one on the requests considered, and denied, was to relieve Lehigh Gas of its 18-month maintenance period at a Lower Saucon Township site it left for the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).

Lehigh Gas was the first tenant at the NIZ.

Lower Saucon voters, last November, passed a referendum devoting a portion of EIT to open space. Allentown's EIT tax grab has effectively abrogated the will of the Township's electorate.

Last week, Hanover Township Supervisors authorized its Solicitor to pursue litigation aimed at top Allentown's "misappropriation" of Hanover Township EIT within a downtown Allentown 130-acre Neighborhood Improvement Zone. On Monday night, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted to join in Hanover's legal action.

Now, three Northampton County municipalities are joined together in a regional effort to stop what advocates of the NIZ insist is good for regionalism. I guess it is, but not in the way hoped.

Next week, both Palmer and Lehigh Townships will be discussing potential litigation.

And so the dominoes begin to fall, one by one.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Every one should !

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters but it does, any idea of who is representing them?

Same as BT & HT?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lower Saucon's Solicitor is B. Lincoln Treadwell. I imagine that he will work something out with Broughal's firm.

Anonymous said...

What is the actual legal argument they will use? I don't quite understand. This wasn't Allentown's decision. This was written as a state law. Last I checked, a bill passed by both chambers of the legislature and signed by the governor trumps local laws unless preempted by a federal law or the Constitution.

Should it have passed in the first place? Maybe, maybe not.

The state law was changed after the passage of the original bill. We shouldn't have this preconceived notion that all Earned Income Tax MUST ALWAYS go to the municipality of residence. The law changed with respect to this NIZ.

Quite frankly, I think it makes more sense to keep the money in the city rather than send it out to the suburbs. Those people use our roads, they should pay for them, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It doesn't matter what you understand. It matters what a court understands. Broughal has no intention of revealing his legal strategy until you see his complaint.

I guess every municipality now should start road fees bc, after all, we use their roads.

Anonymous said...

Why not? We have toll roads. Our roads need to be repaired because we have a large population that travels from the suburbs to work and doesn't use public transportation.

Not exactly fair for you to simply disregard my argument out of hand. I can't conceive of a legal analysis that concludes the state does not have the power to determine tax policy? There is none.

Anonymous said...

"every municipality now should start road fees bc, after all, we use their roads"

Error in this quote: most roads are no owned by the municipality. Most (except in allentown, bethlehem and most boroughs) are owned by the state. Additionally, the state allocates liquid fuel tax dollars to municipalities. One condition for those funds: existing public roads and roads built/maintained w those liquid fuel funds must remain open. And as recently as 2009, the usdot refused to allow pa to convert I80 to a toll road.

This crap aside, shouldnt a transparency purist such as yourself be demanding that locales disclose the legal justification for why they plan to file suit? It is, after all, being done w taxpayer money. Dont tax payers have a right to know. Sure, they dont have to disclose bc it is exempt under state law, but it seems inconsistent for us not to demand transparency in this matter.

political parasites said...

Were is Whitehall in this because of the the Lehighvalley dairy would be a better place for the hockey arena.

Anonymous said...

you should say the entitled dominoes fall, one by one.


I feel much more for the bangors of the world. Where are they?

Lower Mack said...

Bernie, your commenters are descending into incoherence, I am struggling to make sens of some of these comments

Anonymous said...

It takes courage for a small community to take such a stand.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

In the end the Courts will side with the Original Law passed by both Houses and signed by the Governor.

If I remember correctly Rep. Justin Simmons voted for the change that created this law and further informed voters that it couldn't be changed.

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 701a.m.

It either takes courage or they have lots of extra funds to spend.

Remember they appoint the Solicitor and legal counsel who will oppose this.
They will benefit in some way for challenging this law. Such as Dinners, Vacations, Tickets to events, etc.

Anonymous said...

As a Bethlehem Township resident, I don't appreciate officials using my tax dollars to pursue litigation that may not be successful for an undefined amount of incoming revenue. It's a complete waste of time. Concentrate on attracting business and development in the township borders, please.

zoid said...

Good work Bernie, stay on it!!

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

I am pleased my township (LST) has decided to join in the suit. It obviously sees the long-term implications inherent in starting down this revenue-sharing road.

It's NOT just whatever amount of taxes are shifted from them in Year One, it's that (growing) amount, times 30 years.

Had there been a ballot question in LST something like:


"Do you agree to have X% of EIT paid by some LST workers returned back to Allentown to build an arena there?"


I am convinced the option would have garnered about 98% against.

Sounds like LST recognizes this, and is acting to represent the overwhelming wish of its residents. That's what we should hope for in our elected officials. No?

I've read the entire law carefully. Sounds to me, the NIZ board has the right to determine which, and at what portion, taxes within the area to utilize.

The prudent decision for the NIZ Board is to RELEASE surrounding municipalities from participation and get on with things. The arena project has MUCH to lose with ANY delay, even if the litigation ultimately is decided in its favor.

zoid said...

well said

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Concentrate on attracting business and development in the township borders, please."

That's exactly hat they're doing. JB Reilly is poaching businesses for his NIZ from the Townships with lower rents financed by state subsidies. His first tenant, Lehigh Gas, was lured away from Lower Saucon.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Not exactly fair for you to simply disregard my argument out of hand. I can't conceive of a legal analysis that concludes the state does not have the power to determine tax policy? There is none."

Oh, you were making an argument? Seems to me like you were fishing for Broughal's legal theory. You'll get that when he gives it. What you can or cannot conceive is irrelevant.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"shouldnt a transparency purist such as yourself be demanding that locales disclose the legal justification for why they plan to file suit? It is, after all, being done w taxpayer money. Dont tax payers have a right to know. Sure, they dont have to disclose bc it is exempt under state law, but it seems inconsistent for us not to demand transparency in this matter."

Township officials have made no secret about why hey are suing. This tax grab was done without their knowledge, impacts their bottom line and Allentown has stonewalled in answering 16 questions about what is going on. That's been very clear and very transparent. In Lower Saucon's case, voters have actually been disenfranchised.

What you really want is for the lawyers to announce their legal theories in advance, and that's just not gonna' happen.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I feel much more for the bangors of the world. Where are they?"

Dave House is a frequent commenter here and a Bangor Boro Council member. He has opposed this tax grab from Day One. His tiny boro may lack the resources to fight this, but I know he is behind this litigation in spirit, if not with his wallet.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you were making an argument? Seems to me like you were fishing for Broughal's legal theory. You'll get that when he gives it. What you can or cannot conceive is irrelevant.

Why is discussing Broughal's potential angle irrelevant? Just because Broughal's strategy is secret, it doesn't mean residents cannot speculate.

Has all conversation disappeared from this blog if it isn't in complete agreement with the author?

Anonymous said...

Township officials have made no secret about why hey are suing. This tax grab was done without their knowledge, impacts their bottom line and Allentown has stonewalled in answering 16 questions about what is going on. That's been very clear and very transparent. In Lower Saucon's case, voters have actually been disenfranchised.

That's a gross overgeneralization. Ignorance of state law is not an excuse, first of all. These are officials whose job it is to monitor state law and leverage it to best meet the needs of their citizens. "Stonewalling" is a negative term to paint Allentown's awareness of all the particulars of a state law as a purposeful tactic.

Anonymous said...

Dave House is a frequent commenter here and a Bangor Boro Council member. He has opposed this tax grab from Day One. His tiny boro may lack the resources to fight this, but I know he is behind this litigation in spirit, if not with his wallet.

Bangor has more people than Hanover Township. Why is one a tiny woebegone boro and the other is not?

Bernie O'Hare said...

According to the 2010 census, Bangor has a population of 5,273 people. Lower Saucon, in contrast, has 10,772 people, more than twice as many as Bangor. So right off the bat, you are factually incorrect.

On top of that, Council member Houser has repeatedly spoken out against the EIT tax grab.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:54, We all know that the NIZ legislation was buried inside the 2009 budget bill, so cut the crap. Aside from Browne and pawlowski, there were damn few people who knew about it, and even fewer who knew it would grab EIT from other municipalities. Igoratium lexis ne exut applies as a criminal defense, but this is not a criminal matter. If it becomes one, it won't be the townships who are defendants.

As for stonewalling, that is exactly what has happened. There were 16 questions posed to Allentown's finance director. Because he could not answer one of them, he answered none. Information that was promised the next day never came. Now it will come from Browne, and AFTER the binds are floated.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Just because Broughal's strategy is secret, it doesn't mean residents cannot speculate."

You are free to speculate, but it is irrelevant bc you aren't the one making the argument and don't have a clue what the legal theory is and won't until it is filed. And you won't be deciding it either.

Anonymous said...

It seems some believe the tax litigation might be a way to topple the NIZ.

It is quite likely to just raise the cost by a delay.The NIZ is primarily funded by other than EIT.

If the NIZ overcomes the litigation, two things might occur:

The increased cost might increase the probability the EIT is going to be used and not just delayed?

The legal costs will have been incurred and paid with no benefit?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The purpose of the litigation is NOT to delay the NIZ, but to kill it. Get that through your head. That's why you should have involved surrounding communities instead of thumbing your noses at them, as you continue to do now.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Anonymous 12:43 -

The NIZ is not the big issue for me, not even Allentown and its developers deciding to spend their OWN money any way they choose.

In time, I believe communities throughout the state will realize NIZ-type legislation is an effort to use regional funds in a slick way to prop up distressed urban areas. In the end, regular state taxation will be increased for everyone to cover such new and specific grants.

At the moment, I believe our surrounding municipalities just prefer their support of projects elsewhere to be voluntary, rather than required, as much as possible.

There is also great risk and expense to the Allentown arena group with any delay, particularly any delay that runs a year or more.

The NIZ board would be wise to remove surrounding municipalities as funding sources. Because (as you say) the EIT component is not significant, it makes little sense to risk losing the major arena tenant, developers, etc.

Also not forget, the bad PR, ill-will, created throughout neighboring communities by retaining the EIT sums.

The objection of the surrounding communities concerns a 30 year period, not just the initial year.
Seems to me, it IS worth it for those groups to seek relief.

Relief from this plan, and any future plans modeled after it, executed like it.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bad PR and ill-will ...

... no ice hockey tickets to see minor league heavyweights throwing haymakers on Hamilton Street for me, thank you.

Trash talk my beliefs about Limited Government and Low Taxes all you like, Cheerleaders.

I particularly enjoy being referred to as a "Teabagger" and really appreciate the obvious implication that I must be some sort of homosexual as a result of my philosphies on Big Government.

CITIZEN,
PEOPLE's DEMOCRATIC CITY OF ALLENTOWN

Anonymous said...

"philosophies"

I went to public school ...

CITIZEN, PDCA

Anonymous said...

Jeez, Bernie, calm down. The person made a very general comment and you attacked them for "thumbing your noses at [the surrounding communities]."

Litigation is NOT going to kill the NIZ. It might create a delay, it might scare some politicians into repealing it, but the NIZ is legal under Pennsylvania law. You're a former lawyer, aren't you? Why not grace us with some legal analysis instead of pointless "no, you're wrong" belittling.

TJD said...

Wanted to provide a link for anyone that wants to research the population for a particular municipality: http://www.census.gov/popfinder/index.php

Google can be your best friend!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Litigation is NOT going to kill the NIZ. It might create a delay, it might scare some politicians into repealing it"

Well then that kills it. Duh. And you want legal analysis?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, meant to say "It might scare some politicians into trying to repeal it."

But it won't get repealed. Now, if you'd be so kind, present a legal rationale for overturning it.

If you can...

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy reading this blog. But now it just seems that you have nothing useful to add to any of these conversations. You can't even answer simple questions without berating people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hey, nobody's forcing you to read this blog. I'm not going to spew out some legal theory when that would be just as irrelevant as your attempt to debunk it. Let's wait until we know what the legal theory is, and then you can claim it is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't that in itself defeat the entire purpose of a political blog that conjectures on uncertainties? This seems to be all you do on a daily basis -- I wouldn't exactly call it spinless analysis. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, but on this issue you don't seem inclined to discuss any legal implications even though you have a background in law. Make yourself useful.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have no intention of spinning my wheels for your amusement. I will see the legal theory when the suit is filed, which might be as soon as tomorrow, according to the ET. I will speculate about all kinds of political things, but this is the law. Different.

Anonymous said...

The law is politics. Anyone who reads your blog knows that.

Anonymous said...

You're just getting lazy.

Anonymous said...

Municipalities are creatures of the state. The state giveth and the state taketh. Novel idea challenging the state, but, in the end, the state wins.