A York County lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would dramatically speed up the clock for a second round of City Revitalization and Improvement Zone designations.
That means York City might get a second crack at a CRIZ much sooner than originally planned.
House Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor, a Republican from Windsor Township, sent a memo to fellow lawmakers Wednesday announcing his proposal.
The bill would amend the original Act 52, approved last summer, which created the CRIZ program and authorized the state to select two cities last year. The law established a second round of designations in 2016, followed by one designation each year after that.
Saylor wants the second round of CRIZ designations bumped to 2014.
In his memo, Saylor said his bill is intended "to accelerate and boost the economies of eligible cities that are the very foundation of the Commonwealth's economy."
The CRIZ program is modeled after a similar zone in Allentown and designed to incentivize urban development by diverting tax dollars back to project costs.
Late last year, five cities, including York, competed for the state's blessing to create one of the two available zones.
York spent at least $26,500 to create and promote its application.
The city hired Capital Associates Inc. and paid the public affairs and governmental relations firm $15,000 to lobby on behalf of York's applications, according to a contract acquired by The York Dispatch through a Right to Know request. Other cities hired advocates as well.
York also hired ECON Partners Inc. and paid that firm $11,500 to construct York's application, according to another contract.
Considering the potential payoff, that was money well-spent, York City Councilman Michael Helfrich said this week.
"The potential for the CRIZ over the period of the 30 years would be hundreds of millions of dollars of investment if not more," Helfrich said. "It's not something I want to see done all the time, but this was and still is an incredible opportunity."
York City Council President Carol Hill-Evans said she, too, believes it was a worthwhile investment.
Yet, state officials announced in late December the first round of CRIZ designations would go to Lancaster and Bethlehem.
Soon after the announcement, York officials learned the city's application had been disqualified because York failed to designate an authority that met the legal requirements necessary to oversee a CRIZ. At least, that was the opinion of legal counsel at the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Erie was eliminated from consideration for the same reason, according to DCED.
Saylor, who worked closely with York City officials to promote York's application, said earlier that he believes the state's decision to disqualify York was "absolutely wrong."
"To maximize the benefits to these struggling communities and provide them with another tool to reconstruct their local development abilities, it is crucial we step up the time period for approving additional applicants," Saylor wrote in his memo to other legislators. "Vacant, desolate, under utilized or abandoned space need to be developed, thereby creating jobs, increasing personal incomes, growing state and local tax revenues, reviving local economies and improving the lives of city residents and visitors."
At least one local lawmaker has already signed on to support Saylor's proposal.
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said he'll co-sponsor the bill.
Schreiber said the bill must go through the legislative process, but he's hoping the next round of CRIZ designations could happen "sooner rather than later."
York is in a good position to nab a CRIZ, he said.
"I think we've got a good foundation of an application," Schreiber said. "Certainly we can improve upon it and fix whatever technical deficiencies there were."
Hill-Evans called news of Saylor's proposal "fantastic."
"I hope that we will take an even finer-toothed comb to review everything that needed to be done and needs to be submitted so that there's no second-guessing and there's no disqualification for the City of York," Hill-Evans said.
-- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.