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Early considerations underway for tax increment deal in Laurel

In the next fiscal year, Howard County officials anticipate considering a tax increment financing deal to help finance public infrastructure near a major transit-oriented development next to the Laurel Park race track.

The developer of the project, which includes around 1,000 residential units and more than 120,00 square feet of retail on a 65-acre plot, is expected to submit an application for the deal to the county in the next fiscal year, according to Stan Milesky, the county's finance director.

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Early estimates suggest the request will vary between $30 and $40 million — an amount that's largely allocated in the county's budget for next year.

More than 15 years after the county charted ideas to revitalize Route 1, the 11-mile strip in Howard County continues to fall into lingering decay.

Once an application is received, the county will review the request and convene a county-led committee. Tax increment financing is a tool that earmarks future tax revenue from the development to pay back bonds and other costs linked to the deal. The Howard County Council must approve the deal.

Earlier this year, a lawsuit by four developers challenged the county's most recent use of the tool to help fund a $52 million garage that will be shared by private and public users. Local lawmakers approved $90 million in tax increment financing to push forward the development of downtown Columbia by its master developer, Howard Hughes Corp.

At a recent work session with the council, the possibility of the new TIF drew concern from Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, who pressed Milesky for more information.

Milesky said the county must move quickly to consider a future application because the developer has begun moving forward. As part of the deal, the county must establish a taxing district in order to freeze any future tax gains from the development and direct that money to fund the effort.

"The developer is making such progress there that I'm concerned they will have sold lots and started construction…" Milesky said.

"That sends an alarm to us," he added.



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