New CRIZ legislation gets boost in state Senate
Proposed bill would allow Erie to seek development funding sooner than anticipated
The Pennsylvania Senate has OKd proposed legislation that could help accelerate Erie's attempts to stimulate economic development along the city's bayfront.
Specifically, the Senate voted 43-5 Tuesday in favor of House Bill 1177, which would provide additional opportunities for cities such as Erie to apply for designation as a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone earlier than current legislation allows.
Under the current program, applications for additional CRIZ zones will not be approved until 2016. But the new language approved by the Senate would allow for the application and approval of four new zones and up to three pilot zones between now and the end of 2015.
If the state House of Representatives passes the legislation, the city could then apply for a CRIZ designation prior to 2016.
The city of Erie applied for funding last year, but was bypassed by the governor in favor of Bethlehem and Lancaster.
State Sen. Sean Wiley of Millcreek Township, who voted in favor of the legislation, characterized the CRIZ designation as an "economic game-changer for Erie."
"It was imperative that my colleagues and I work together to ensure this language was inserted into this bill," Wiley said in reference to House Bill 1177.
Wiley said the Senate's passage of the legislation is an important first step. "While this legislation still has to be approved by members of the House, I am cautiously optimistic that we will have a bill for the Governor to sign in the near future," Wiley added.
A CRIZ is an area of up to 130 acres that would use state and local taxes generated within the area to stimulate economic development and help create new jobs.
Funds can only be used for certain purposes, including paying debt service on bonds issued to build or rebuild facilities, develop infrastructure and prepare sites for development.
The city held a public hearing last month to explore creating a new municipal authority that would be used to submit a second CRIZ application and administer the program if successful. No decision was made at the June 25 meeting.
Published reports indicated that one reason the state rejected the city's initial CRIZ application was because it did not create a new authority to oversee the program and instead tried to use the Erie Sewer Authority to fulfill that role.
Frank Garland can be contacted at fGarland@ErieReader.com.