Smithfield Herald

Businesses oppose special tax district

Town planner Paul Embler shows council members a map of the planned Glen Lake apartment community on N.C. 210.
Town planner Paul Embler shows council members a map of the planned Glen Lake apartment community on N.C. 210.

Business owners in and around Carolina Premium Outlets don’t want to find themselves in a special tax district – a message they delivered to the Town Council on Tuesday.

“You’re going to kill the goose that’s laid the golden egg all those years,” warned developer John Shallcross Jr., speaking on behalf of business owners.

At a special budget meeting earlier this month, council members floated the idea of a special tax district that would stretch, essentially, from the Waffle House on East Market Street to just beyond the outlet center on Industrial Park Drive. Mayor Daniel Evans later noted that the tax district could help pay for infrastructure needs in and around the outlets.

Council members noted that while the outlet center is the county’s largest sale-tax generator, little of that money – just 4.5 cents per dollar of sales tax – comes back to Smithfield. The state and county share the rest. The council directed the town manager’s staff to write a letter for forwarding to the General Assembly, which would have to approve such a tax district.

Shallcross told council members that an additional tax could harm the bottom lines of businesses that create jobs, and he encouraged the town to get its own financial house in order. “I strongly urge you to cut your spending, change your priorities,” he said.

Shallcross noted that businesses in the proposed tax district already pay property taxes, sales taxes and, in some cases, occupancy taxes on hotel stays.

But Councilman Emery Ashley noted the sales tax returns little to Smithfield’s coffers. “There is a lot of sales tax generated out there, but Smithfield gets very little of it,” he said.

Shallcross responded: “Your fight is not with the property owners or businesses out there. Your fight needs to be with the county.”

Councilman Andy Moore said it was too early for businesses to worry about a special tax district, because nothing has been finalized. “It was all very preliminary,” he said of discussions at the budget meeting.

Apartment plan OK’d

The council gave final approval to a low-income apartment community on N.C. 210. But construction still depends on a grant from the state Housing Finance Agency.

The Glen Lake apartment community would have 70 units for people who fall below a certain income line. That line, said developer Mike Weaver, is usually about 60 percent of an area’s average income.

Apartments would lease for $400 to $600 a month. Weaver said communities like Glen Lake often attract low-income public servants – teachers, firefighters, police officers and city workers. “It ranges across the board, but it’s not our intention to make this a Section 8 project,” he said, referring to a federal rent-subsidy program.

Apartment developers have been eying Smithfield off and on for the past decade, but the recession put several projects on ice.

The council easily approved Glen Lake, but a couple of council members had questions.

Ashley wanted to know who would pay for turn lanes required by the Department of Transportation. “If DOT requires something, I want them to take care of it and not leave it to the town, the way it has with Smithfield Crossings,” he said.

Town planner Paul Embler said the developer would play for the turn lanes.

Moore asked about the screening process for tenants. Weaver said the process includes checks for employment, criminal background and credit history.

“We look at you every way that we can to make sure the people living on that property won’t be a problem for us or for the community,” he said.