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HEDC weighs special tax zone status for industrial park

March 3, 2019 GMT

HARLINGEN — Even in an industrial park, curb appeal counts.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board this week approved the pursuit of more information on the possibility of creating a Public Improvement District, or PID, for property in the Harlingen Industrial Park.

These special districts allow the owners of the property to self-assess or self-levy, creating a taxing zone where they would contribute to a fund which could then be used for landscaping, road improvements or improved lighting.

Just over half the 140 acres in the park are owned by the HEDC, and include what is now known as the old Cardone site. The acreage was set aside for the new plant before the company pulled out of its expansion in Harlingen last year.

“Essentially anything that’s a public improvement could be done in a Public Improvement District and paid for by the landowners, instead of the rest of the taxpayers, or sharing with the rest of the taxpayers from the city or the county,” Raudel Garza, chief executive of the HEDC, told the board. “This is basically the landowners themselves taking control of the property.”

Garza said the property could be described as somewhat neglected over the years.

“Things should have been done in the past, maybe they were, maybe they weren’t, and some of them were waived,” he said. “But the way this area looks and the way it should look are two different things. Here’s an opportunity for us to really enhance the aesthetics in this property.”

Public Improvement Districts can have a broad mandate for change, including resurfacing streets and roads, new lighting, landscaping, signage, acquiring rights of way, pedestrian malls, artwork, libraries, parking facilities, mass transit facilities, pedestrian malls, drainage facilities and parks.

In the industrial park here, the plan would include landscaping and sidewalks along Grimes Avenue, FM 509 and Industrial Way, new lighting, improving road surfaces of Industrial Way and Grimes, construction of a new road connecting Industrial Way to FM 509 and improving drainage facilities within the PID.

Among owners of property in the park are Texas Gas Service, Fox Valley Molding, Industrial Assembly International and Pan American Hydrogen, Garza said following the meeting.

“Really there are not many owners out there other than us, so this is why I thought this is a good opportunity for us to get going on this thing,” Garza said. “They’ll benefit — we’re not talking about trying to create a burden for them.

“We can fit in well over a million square feet of industrial space,” he said. “When you look at that, you think, OK, that’s probably anywhere from $50 to $100 million worth of taxable property in the future, why wouldn’t we want to do something like that? We’re investing in ourselves.”

The board authorized the HEDC to release a request for qualifications, including specialized legal advice, to determine the correct route to establishing a PID for the industrial zone area.