Palmer, township of big land deals, sees real-estate transfer revenue top annual target in 6 months | Lehigh Valley Regional News

Palmer Township is the home of the big land deal in Northampton County, and that means extra revenue in 2022.

Financially at least, big warehouses are paying off.

The township assesses a transfer tax of 0.5% on land sales. One-half percent may not seem like much. On a $150,000 property, it would amount to $750, but with recent Palmer-size deals, it adds up fast.

Palmer’s 2022 budget assumes $850,000 from the transfer tax, or about 6% of total revenue. The township has already blown past that number, largely due to the $154.2 million sale of the Amazon warehouse and adjacent land off Route 33.

Northampton County recorded the sale May 18. A Duke Realty limited partnership sold the property to a limited liability company based in Indiana. Operations at the huge warehouse were not expected to change as a result of the deal, an Amazon spokesman said at the time.

That sale is among the biggest in the region’s history. One-half of 1% of the $154.2 million price is $771,000, or just over 90% of the projected Palmer transfer-tax revenue for the year, which is not even half over.

Another big deal was recorded in December 2021, when the Nazareth Borough Municipal Authority sold 49.5 acres that it used to dump sludge to MRP Industrial of Baltimore, which plans to put warehouses on the vacant land. The former dumping ground at Van Buren Road and Main Street went for $53.1 million, more than $1 million per acre.

The borough authority then bought preserved farmland in Plainfield Township for $850,000 for sludge dumping, a decision neighbors have been protesting ever since.

On a per-acre basis, the sale of a sludge dump was a record setter. While that deal was made in 2021, the transfer tax payment arrived in 2022. The Amazon and Van Buren Road transactions alone account for about $1 million in tax revenue, or 20% more than the forecast amount. Such huge transactions are rare, even in Palmer, so they cannot be forecast.

Meanwhile, Palmer awaits the big check from the Amazon deal.

“We did not see the Amazon sale revenue yet, but are anticipating it in the next county payment,” Palmer Finance Director James Farley said in an email Wednesday. The money is relayed through Northampton County.

How any extra money from one revenue line item will be spent remains to be seen.

“It will make us exceed our budget forecast. We will need to see how our expenses for the year play out in order to see our position at year end,” Farley said.

Extra funds are welcome but may not necessarily be viewed as a windfall. Final decisions on spending are up to Palmer’s elected board of supervisors. COVID-19 created unexpected costs, and any extra transfer-tax money could make up financial ground lost during the pandemic.

“Any surplus we generate would be shared with the board at budget time and would become a part of the general fund,” Farley said. “We had a significant depletion of our reserve funds during COVID, and this may be used to replace those, and/or used for future obligations.”

Palmer’s financial boost comes mainly from the western area of ​​the township near the Chrin Interchange of Route 33, studded by warehouses and big-box buildings. Warehouses may not be popular with the public because of the truck traffic they generate, but the transportation and logistics industry employs about 1 in 10 area workers, according to one study.

The Lehigh Valley’s location in the middle of the giant megalopolis along the US eastern seaboard has brought investment from billion-dollar companies such as Proologis Inc. and CBRE Group Inc., which are among the biggest real estate outfits in the world.


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