By Andrew McCue

News Staff

With a projected final assessed value of nearly $26 million, a new shopping center in Exeter Township might receive more than $700,000 in annual tax relief.

The proposed shopping center, between the Boscov's outlet and the Dutch Colony Motel, would have seven stores and cover 340,000 square feet.

But before a developer would be interested in the property, the roads need to be upgraded.

"This is ideal commercial property that has been sitting vacant for 40 to 50 years because no one can make the highway improvements," said Earnest Werstler, Exeter Township School District business manager, at the Oct. 17 school board meeting.

"Highway development is a state function, but the state has said they have no money," he said.

Proposals reviewed by the state Department of Transportation have lead to the latest plan by Traffic Planning and Design, Inc., of Pottstown.

Among the needed highway upgrades are new through lane off Route 422 East, where there is currently only one lane; a new road and traffic signal adjacent to the Boscov's outlet; and a major intersection at 47th Street and Perkiomen Avenue.

While township Supervisor Michelle Kircher thinks the changes would improve the situation, she said, "the plan will not solve all the problems."

Kircher added: "To totally solve the problems, you'd have to redo the entire road."

When completed, the project could annually generate $33,603 in township taxes, $607,441 in school taxes, and $179,259 in county taxes.

With a Tax Increment Financing plan, (TIF) the developer would only pay taxes on the property's current undeveloped value, with the difference going to pay the principal and interest on a $5.8 million highway improvement loan.

Werstler said the TIF would not start until after the road work and the shopping center are completed in 2009.

Kircher said the township supervisors would secure the financing, getting a better rate than the developer could get and pass the savings on to the schools.

With this plan, the county and township will give 100 percent tax relief to the developer, the school district would give 75 percent.

The next step, Werstler said, is up to the Berks County Industrial Development Authority.

"It's really back in the IDA's hands to draw up the legal documents and the agreement," he said.

Then the township supervisors and the school board will need to approve the plan, followed by the county commissioners.

Contact reporter Andrew McCue

at 610-367-6041, ext. 225 or

anmccue@berksmontnews.com.

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