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Senate OKs Morgantown TIF district

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation (SB125) to create the third state-approved tax increment financing development district, using sales tax revenues for several projects in greater Morgantown won Senate approval Monday, 34-0.

"This is an opportunity for us to allow a lot of different things, as far as economic development, to occur," Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said of the sales tax increment financing district for the University Town Centre complex.

Legislative authorization of the TIF district is the final financing element of a $96 million development project that will include an exit off Interstate 79 between Westover and Star City, and development of a $16 million ballpark for the West Virginia University baseball team and, likely, a professional minor league team.

Also, Prezioso said, the project will open up 1,400 acres for development of additional retail locations at the current Town Centre complex, as well as Class A office space and light industrial facilities on both sides of I-79.

He said the development would provide 1,700 construction jobs, and up to 1,100 permanent jobs.

The $28 million interchange off of Interstate 79, between the current Westover and Star City exits also should help alleviate serious traffic congestion problems in Morgantown. Prezioso said that's a serious concern with projections of population growth of 5,000 to 7,000 in Monongalia County over the next five years.

Senator Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said that in addition to helping traffic flow, the new interchange will allow new development on the undeveloped north side of I-79.

"The interchange ... will basically open up both sides of that highway," he said.

The bill goes to the House of Delegates. If approved there, the Morgantown project would be the third state-approved sales tax TIF district, along with the Cabela's superstore and warehouse development outside of Wheeling, and the Charles Pointe development in Bridgeport.

Charleston passed an ordinance last year as part of its home rule pilot project to create a TIF district encompassing a portion of downtown surrounding the Civic Center.

With sales tax TIFs, bonds are sold to finance the development projects, using sales tax collections from retailers within the district to pay off the bonds.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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