If a York County lawmaker gets his way, York City will get a second chance at a Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone this year.
A bipartisan coalition is backing House Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor's proposal that would give two more Pennsylvania cities a chance at the coveted economic-development designations two years earlier than originally planned.
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, R-Windsor Township, said he is hoping an added 2014 opportunity would result in a CRIZ for York, which he expects to benefit the whole of York County with new jobs and a lower crime rate.
Saylor and state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, have been outspoken proponents of York's bid for a CRIZ since the state released guidelines for the first round of selections in late October.
The CRIZ program is modeled after a similar zone in Allentown and designed to incentivize urban development and job creation by diverting tax dollars back to project costs.
First round: York was among five cities that competed for the first two designations, which went to Lancaster and Bethlehem.
Soon after the announcement, York and Erie officials learned their applications had been disqualified because of a technicality.
Saylor said he believes York's application "was one of the best two submitted."
"My hope is that we will be selected if there are two more allowed," he said.
Saylor's bill was referred recently to the House Urban Affairs committee, which is chaired by Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury Township.
Gillespie is a co-sponsor of the bill. Other local legislators sponsoring the bill include Schreiber and Republican Reps. Seth Grove, Ron Miller, Mike Regan and Will Tallman.
Another proposal: Saylor's proposal is not the only CRIZ-related bill pending in the state Legislature, however.
Sens. Judith Schwank and John Blake, both Democrats, are the primary sponsors of a bill that would authorize the creation of 15 additional zones before 2016.
Their bill would extend the program to Scranton, a second-class city, and Harrisburg — deemed ineligible by Act 52 because the city has had a receiver appointed under the state's Act 47 financial-recovery program. In fact, the proposal would give priority to cities like Harrisburg.
That's why Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin County, said he signed on as a co-sponsor.
"They went out of their way to cut Harrisburg out of it, which was just disgraceful," Teplitz said. "(Schwank's) bill remedies that and makes it a fair competition on an even playing field for more struggling municipalities."
Teplitz, whose district includes parts of northeastern York County, said he was pleased by Lancaster's selection and is supportive of York's pursuit of a CRIZ.
"In terms of supporting and growing this region, I think it would be great to have York be in the program," he said.
Saylor, however, said he is skeptical that 15 cities would be able to submit financially viable plans by 2016. That's "a little too much," he said.
"I'm not trying to say that it can't be more than two," Saylor said. "But you have to start out with a very good plan. If you don't have a good plan, then that designation is no good to you."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.