Commissioners approved an economic development incentive program that will provide property tax rebates for new and expanding businesses based on the number of employees and amount of investment in Clay County.
The board on Oct. 1 approved the rebates as a way to provide “economic development incentives to stimulate new and expanding businesses and industries to create new jobs and investment in the county,” according to an informational handout. The incentive or “grant” guidelines start out with a $200,000 to $299,000 investment for developers creating five to nine jobs. In this category, qualifying businesses may receive a 30 percent tax rebate annually for up to five years.
The rebate percentage increases as the investment and number of jobs increase. The financial incentive grant will annually reimburse a developer based on a percentage of actual value and schedule of paid property taxes. The incentive will be available for five years from the date the property is developed in full.
Each property will be evaluated on its own individual merits as to quality and quantity of jobs created, according to the proposal. The county reserves the right to withhold the financial incentive package if, after evaluating the merits and quality and quantity of jobs, the application of the grant is not in the best interest of the county. Through the program, businesses will still be required to pay property taxes when they are due. However, if a business meets specific criteria as outlined in a formal agreement, a portion of the property taxes paid by the business or industry would be returned to the business each year in the form of a local economic development incentive grant.
Requests will be subject to recommendation by the county manager and approval of the commission board. A public hearing will be held prior to county commissioners approving any incentive. County attorney Merinda Woody said the rebates are treated much like grants. By law, businesses must show they serve a public purpose. This involves three criteria: • Amount of jobs created. • Amount of taxes previously paid to the county. • How much revenue they will put into the local economy.
The incentive program was the subject of a public hearing held prior to the monthly meeting. During the hearing, Rich Hauschild, who is proposing to build a 100 unit apartment complex applauded commissioners for taking this step. “Thank you for taking a serious approach to this,” Hauschild said. “The project I’ve been working on is a $12 to $13 million project — 100 units of market rate apartments for working class people.” The proposed site for the apartment project is property on the right side of the entrance to the Clay County Courthouse complex. Hauschild predicted that when considering property and sales taxes, the project and its tenants could bring in $200,000 to $400,000 in revenue annually. Hauschild said he will be a silent partner on the project. He did asked the board to consider master metering in the units — one meter per building. He said the apartment project represents about $200,000 to $250,000 worth of plumbing. Commissioners made no decision about the metering.
Courthouse paid off
Commission Chairman Rob Peck said the Clay County Courthouse was officially paid off July 29, 2020. The total cost to build the courthouse was $8,000,000. The courthouse sits on 16.5 acres of land. Peck said next year the detention center should be paid in full as well.
Grant for new 911 facility
County Manager Debbie Mauney reported that the county had received a $2.5 million grant to help build a state of the art 911 facility in the county. A location has not been determined, but Mauney was given the OK to apply for more grant money to pay for it. The $2.5 million came from a N.C. State 911 Service Answering Points grant. The county is seeking about $4 million in grants to build and equip the facility.
Temporary jury selection location
Commissioners agreed to allow the judiciary to use the Clay County Rec Park gym as a temporary location for jury selection. Because of the pandemic, there is a need for a place to provide social distancing during the selection process. Jury selections are scheduled only a few days per month at the gym for November, February and April. Jury trials and deliberations will resume at the courthouse.
Property sales action rescinded
Commissioners agreed to rescind a decision from their September meeting to deed properties to Clay County until the first meeting of the board in January 2021. Instead, they are allowing Kania law firm to continue to market properties for possible bid assignment. The decision was changed because Woody reported that after the commissioners’ last meeting, they received several inquiries about delinquent tax foreclosure properties. She said they have received two inquiries about the Mountain Harbour property and five investors are looking at Crockett Mountain properties.
Commissioners meet the first Thursday of the month at 6:45 p.m.