Is the City Hurting Business with Excessive Fees?
~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last week’s regular meeting of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was dominated by discussion of the development of Woodland Station; and more notably, the lack of any feasible projects on this commercial anchor site.
After the multi-use TAVA House proposal, which called for an events center, retail, restaurant and more, for Woodland Station pulled out due to timing issues, the only other project left on the table for the property is a proposal by George Christian and Mike Williams. The Christian/Williams project was first proposed at nearly the same time as the TAVA House project, but they have yet to file an application with the city or the DDA, and the developers have kept their plan secret.
The DDA board spent much of their last meeting discussing the project. The board has in place a negotiating committee to talk with the developers, but so far there has been little progress. The committee updated their talks with the board, stating that some discussion is being bantered about on the exact location of the development.
The developers have stated they want to build a 35-foot high structure as close to the road as possible to take advantage of visibility from Hwy. 24. The DDA wants to maintain a 60-foot open area from the location of the cog railroad car, south. The committee also said the developers want an exact number of square feet that is available for construction.
Discussion then turned to frustration with how long the developers are taking. Some on the board fear the project will fall through, as so many have in the past. Board Member Al Born said, “I have been through this so many times. What’s happening right now is exactly what has happened many times and they’ve all failed to bring something forward.”
Chairwoman Merry Jo Larsen said, “I think we all are anxious. They should have been thinking about it long enough to have an idea of what they want to do.”
DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy, who is on the negotiating committee, stated the committee has indicated to the developers that the DDA is not trying to rush them. He communicated that, “Frankly, we’re trying to stay out of the way as much as possible.”
Larsen then said, “I think the board needs to see a little more from them.” Larsen wants Christian and Williams to come before the board with more information and more details.
City Fees Under Scrutiny
In other DDA news, the board began discussing the issue of taxes and fees levied by the city. They are thinking of recommending changes to the city’s fees and taxes on businesses. The first of those fees discussed was the vendor’s fee. The vendor’s fee is the percentage given for collecting sales tax for the city. The board feels this fee should be given back to the businesses.
Born pointed out how expensive it is for businesses to do commerce in the city. He stated that with the increase in property tax revenue, due to the recent reassessment, that now is a good time to give back to businesses. He said, “They could ease that burden a little bit by allowing that 3.33 percent vendor’s fee to be returned to the business.”
The board also discussed the city business license fee. Born said, “The business license is just a fee. Anybody can come in and pay the fee and they can do whatever (business) they want. This is just another expense for a business. So do we really need it?”
Larsen said she believes the business license is a way for the city to keep track of who is doing business in the city. She does think the cost of the license is high and needs to be lowered.
Coy agreed with Born. He said, “I think the idea of any fee whatsoever is to some degree just an unfair practice.”
During the general discussion portion of the meeting, Larsen said there will be no rodeo this year, but she hopes to put together a pow-wow to take its place sometime in August. She said she hopes the pow-wow could use the Woodland Station property for the event.