A former Catholic school in Lansford is being converted into subsidized apartments for older folks, and its owners are asking for a tax break.

Catholic Senior Housing Development and Management Director Mark Mason and the firm's attorney, Walter Terrell Toliver, on Wednesday asked the Carbon County Board of Assessment Appeals to exempt the project from all property taxes because it qualifies as a public charity.

The appeals board expects to announce a decision within 30 days.

The former St. Ann's School, at 30 E. Bertsch St., is being converted to 17 apartments for low income people who are at least 62 years old. Tenants would pay up to 30 percent of their annual income in rent. The federal office of Housing and Urban Development is contributing $2.5 million of the $3 million cost of the project, which is expected to be finished by fall.

Appeals board member Dwight Penberth quizzed the representatives about the age restriction, saying he was concerned that the housing eventually would be opened to those who are younger. Penberth cited the changes that have occurred in the Lansford mid-rise apartment building as an example.

Toliver said that the residency would remain, under Housing and Urban Development parameters, restricted to those over 62.

The project has come under fire by some, including the Lansford Historical Society, for its demolition of the former convent, a 1920s-era Queen Anne Style Victorian home to make way for 11 parking spaces for the apartments. Both the school and convent were last used in 1999; the borough had condemned the convent in October 2007.

According to the county Tax Assessment Department, the land at 30 E. Bertsch is assessed for taxes at $4,850; there are no buildings listed. The total tax burden is currently $446.17: $270.10 to the Panther Valley School District; $142.64 to Lansford Borough and $33.44 to the county.