FARRELL New apartments won't receive break from property taxes

The agency needs to apply to the county for nonprofit status.
FARRELL, Pa. -- City officials say they're not in the business of granting property tax abatements to new developments.
The city received a request for a tax break from the Housing & amp; Neighborhood Development Service of Erie, which will manage the Independence Park project being built in the 600 block of Spearman Avenue by the Mercer County Community Action Agency (MCCAA).
MCCAA is planning a 10-unit apartment complex for tenants suffering from mental illness who can live and function independently. The project, subsidized by the federal government, has a price of about $800,000.
City Manager LaVon Saternow told council Monday she received a letter from Housing & amp; Neighborhood Development Service asking that the city excuse the project from paying property taxes because it is a nonprofit operation.
No abatements
Atty. Steve Mirizio, city solicitor, pointed out that a city ordinance set up at one time to grant tax abatement on new construction has long since expired, and council no longer has the authority to grant abatements.
Saternow said the city ended its abatement program when the state stopped subsidizing them.
Mirizio said Housing & amp; Neighborhood Development Service should contact the Mercer County tax assessment office to seek nonprofit status, which would be the same as a permanent tax abatement.
Council granted Mercer County Disabilities Coalition a two-year lease on office space in the city building for $1.
The agency has informally occupied the former Human Relations Commission office in the municipal building six or seven years, said Mayor William Morocco.
The agency is now seeking a formal lease agreement because it has applied to the Center for Independent Living in Harrisburg to become a satellite of that organization's New Castle office. It must have permanent office space to secure the designation, Morocco said.
In a related matter, council voted to recommend that the Farrell Redevelopment Authority extend the Disabilities Coalition's option to buy land at Fruit Avenue and Federal Street for another two years.
Saternow said the coalition has held that option for years but has so far been unsuccessful in securing government grant money to build housing units there.

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