The Easton Area School Board decided Wednesday evening to delay voting on whether to rescind its approval of the proposed Tax Increment Financing for the planned Route 33 interchange pending a discussion with the developer.
The discussion, now planned for Nov. 14, will be moved to Nov. 7 if possible, two days before the board's next meeting at which time the board will consider the matter again. If the meeting can't be accomplished on the Nov. 7, the board will add a special meeting, possibly on Nov. 15 or 16, board chairman Kerry Myers said.
“The hopeful outcome of the meeting is that we might have some educational initiatives in the near future,” said TIF liaison Kerri Leonard-Ellison.
The meeting between the district and developer Charles Chrin Companies will be attended by Leonard-Ellison and up to three other board members, the district's solicitor and Superintendent Susan McGinley.
Board member Frank Castrovinci said he is uncomfortable with the agreement as it stands and doesn't think an educational initiative is the solution to the issue.
"What's the goal?” Castrovinci asked. "What do they expect?"
"That's the basis for the discussion," Leonard-Ellison said.
Castrovinci and Myers said they have concerns about the TIF after Northampton County officials approved it last week. At about the same time, the county also approved another deal with Chrin for farmland preservation in the area, netting the county an additional $2 million.
Castrovinci said the board was pressured to make a decision quickly on the TIF, which made him uncomfortable about the deal to begin with. To find that another taxing body involved in the deal received additional funds only increases his unease, he said.
“Since then, the county has seen $2 million from this. That says to me this can be done without the TIF,” he said. “To just ask for some educational incentive out of this I think is insanity.”
Myers expressed similar sentiments.
"All of a sudden, some money disappeared and now it's in a foundation. We came to the table in good faith,” he said. "I don't care that down the line we'll be reaping the rewards...I think there's been a little deception here."
"I'd be much more comfortable with this approval rescinded and let's see what happens,” Castrovinci said. "The answers to questions I've asked have been horrendous...The developer is getting a big incentive here...They're not going to lower [land sale prices]. He's going to pocket as much as he can."
Speaking in favor of the deal were former state Rep. Rich Grucela and Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle.
Grucela said the school district stands to make the most money from the deal when the TIF matures in 20 years and said the county farmland deal won't change that. He asked the board to let the resolution stand.
Angle, saying he lives on a farm, said the county's deal with the developer will preserve 400 acres of farmland, land that won't be used for residential development and therefore won't add students to the district. He also said the school district was not the victim of deception.
“No one was snookered. There were no end plays,” Angle told the board.
Board solicitor John Freund said that though the school board has approved the resolution for the deal -- for an undetermined amount of time -- it can reconsider it. However, the opportunity will likely last for only a few weeks, he said. After the financing for the deal goes through the banks, the opportunity will be lost.
However, he advised the board to wait on the vote, pending the meeting with the developer.
“I'm not sure if we rescind this, that Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again,” Freund said.
The board said it will revisit the issue at its next meeting on Nov. 9 to make a decision if the talks with Chrin can be moved up. If they remain on Nov. 14, the board intends to call a special meeting to decide the matter.