Morgantown special tax bill moves forward - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Morgantown special tax bill moves forward

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Monongalia County is one step closer to setting up a special sales tax to boost development surrounding University Town Center in Morgantown.

Senate Bill 125, which would allow the Monongalia County Commission to establish a tax increment financing district for sales tax, unanimously passed the Senate March 11.

Similar TIF districts are in Triadelphia in Ohio County and in Clarksburg.

If the bill completes the legislative process, it would provide $28 million for construction of a new interchange along Interstate 79, along with improvements to and expansions of the local water, sewer and road systems. The bill also would provide $16 million for a new baseball stadium.

Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said when the bill came through the Senate last year, Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, realized it still needed some work through the West Virginia Development Office.

Prezioso said the bill would allow the sales tax TIF for the next 30 years and would include 1,450 acres. He said most of the property had not yet been developed, but some of it had. He said Monongalia County's population was expected to increase by at least 5,000 people in the next five years, and development to the interstate exchange toward the mall area was "much needed."

Prezioso said the projects would create 1,700 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs.

Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said creating a TIF district is not a simple process, but it will open up both sides of the highway, which otherwise would not have been developed for another 30 years or so.

"I'm excited about the opportunities for North Central West Virginia," Beach said.

And Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, told lawmakers that creating another entry and exit for the mall area has become a "public safety issue," in an area where growth has been "quite significant.