Tax-increment financing opponents will appeal a Pennsylvania county court ruling approving a Tanger Outlet Center at a busy freeway intersection in western Pennsylvania.

The area, zoned agricultural until recently, isn't blighted as TIF law requires, says plaintiffs' attorney Peter Suwak of Washington, Pa. “In our view, this is just a raid on the public treasury by one business, which grants them a competitive advantage over other businesses,” says Suwak, who represents two landowners and a citizens' group.

A TIF would help fund $54 million in improvements at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 79, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in South Strabane Township, Washington County.

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Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. plans a 420,000-square-foot mall with 100 outlet stores. Tanger is “moving forward rapidly with the balance of permitting issues and moving toward development of the site,” says Steven Tanger, president and chief operating officer.

The Greensboro, N.C., real estate investment trust owns 29 centers in 21 states with about 8 million square feet of gross leasable area. The contested Washington County project would be near a Bass Pro Outdoor World store, race track and casino.

The REIT thinks its new center will exceed its portfolio average of $307 in sales per square foot. The average household income nearby is nearly $60,000, close to Tanger's “national benchmark” of $64,909. Within 10 miles of the site, average household income rises to $71,454.

The appeal notwithstanding, Tanger plans on opening the center in late 2007.

Suwak will argue that, with $400 million in proposed development at the intersection and the local TIF representing just $14 million, “it's reasonable to assume they would build it without our local share.”