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Don’t miss chance to spur downtown development

As baseball season was getting under way last week, Brookhavenaldermen were taking a few swings at some downtown developmentissues.

After years of foul tips on several design proposals, the boardfinally connected on a plan for the proposed multi-modaltransportation facility. Aldermen opted to renovate the old powerplant building instead of tearing it down and building a newfacility.

The facility has the potential to be a big score for Brookhavenand Amtrak passengers.

For the city, renovation of the old plant building will improvea run-down area and could spur additional development. For traincustomers, it will give them a welcome, indoor alternative – withrestrooms – to the small hut currently in use near the olddepot.

While the board did well with the transportation facility,aldermen missed an opportunity for a bigger score following arequest for a property tax break on recent downtowndevelopments.

After developing two new buildings, at a cost of about $500,000,owners asked for a 10-year property tax abatement on just theimprovements. The breaks would have amounted to a total of about$16,000 not collected over that period.

After considerable discussion, aldermen granted a five-yearabatement. Several board members expressed a concern about theprecedent that could be set.

The board action represents a solid hit, but it could have beena home run toward encouraging more downtown development.

Brookhaven’s vibrant downtown remains one of the city’sstrongest selling points for economic development. Given sufficientincentive, future developments could produce more revenue for thecity than the relatively small amount forgiven by the property taxabatement.

City officials should do everything they can to encourage moredevelopment in downtown. They are on the right track with the trainstation, but other possibilities should not be detoured byshort-sighted concerns over property tax collections.