If all goes as planned, two pending subdivisions along Old Bunn Road would have a significant impact on Zebulon’s industrial-heavy tax base.
The Barrington and Autumn Lakes subdivisions each gained approval from the town’s Planning Board in January, with some recommended conditions. The Zebulon Town Board is expected to consider the recommendation for Barrington on Monday, Feb. 6, and for Autumn Lakes on March 6.
If commissioners approve the two subdivisions and they build out as planned, they could bring a combined 1,387 new residential units to town.
Commercial and industrial properties account for about 70 percent of the town’s total tax base. That majority has generally been regarded as a good thing for the town, but has led to some headaches in recent years as commercial property values declined.
From 2012 to 2014, for example, the commercial end was a driving factor in Zebulon’s total tax base dropping more than $62 million. The result was a loss of about $300,000 in property tax revenue for the town.
Town Manager Joe Moore spoke about the importance of attracting new residential growth, bringing more balance to the town’s tax base, during an economic growth conference put on by the Zebulon Chamber of Commerce in October.
“One of the downsides of having the super majority of your tax base in commercial or industrial properties is commercial and industrial properties follow that business cycle,” Moore said at the Zebulon Next event. “As a town manager, that’s problematic to providing services like police and fire if you’re getting funding based upon the business cycle. We have got to diversify our tax base.”
Barrington’s developers were hesitant to assign a price range for the homes in their proposed subdivision. A price range for homes in Autumn Lakes was unavailable in time for this report.
Mike Jordan, the manager and owner of the Barrington project, said even if that development is approved the housing market and other conditions could change by the time the first units go up for sale.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to try to find that balance of how do we help the Town of Zebulon and help ourselves without harming Zebulon,” Jordan said.
The average value of Zebulon’s 1,626 single-family homes as of Jan. 1 was $141,572. Applying that average value to the maximum number of proposed homes in Barrington and Autumn Lakes offers some perspective – though it is perhaps on the low side – on their possible tax impact.
In such a scenario, 1,387 homes would generate about $1.1 million in property tax revenue, representing an increase of about 21 percent over the amount the town estimated it would collect in total property tax revenue for the current fiscal year. That would increase the residential portion of Zebulon’s tax base from 29 percent to 42 percent of the total tax makeup, based on figures as of 2016.
Development plans currently call for single-family homes in both subdivisions to have at least 1,400 square feet of heated space. That same number would apply to duplexes planned for Barrington, where other conditions would require two-bedroom townhomes to have 1,000 square feet and three-bedroom townhomes to have 1,250 square feet of heated space.
Conditions approved by the Planning Board would also require a vast majority of the units in both subdivisions to have at least a single-car garage.
Land use consultant Charles Walker also noted Barrington, like other subdivisions in the area, would pay its share of the Beaverdam Creek sewer outfall project, making more development possible on the east side of town.
The more water and sewer customers there are in Zebulon, the faster the town can pay off its obligations under the 2006 utilities merger with the City of Raleigh. When the money is repaid to the city of Raleigh, all Zebulon utilities customers will pay the same, lower rates Raleigh customers pay.