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Council studying economic development incentives

Posted: November 2, 2015 5:37 p.m.
Updated: November 3, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Camden City Council will take some time to mull over proposed economic development incentives for the city. Council got a first look at a draft ordinance outlining possible incentives to help augment economic development in the city of Camden during its Oct. 27 meeting.

Attorney Lawrence Flynn gave a brief presentation highlighting some of the provisions of the proposed draft. Flynn said while the city does not have much opportunity to engage in the industrial recruitment aspect of economic development, there are some incentives and actions the city can take at the local level to help enhance and augment retail and tourism development. The ordinance while not meant to be an all-encompassing “mousetrap” designed to suddenly convince many new businesses to come to town, Flynn said, could be another useful tool the city can use in its efforts to become more business friendly.

“This ordinance is somewhat part and parcel with such an ordinance as the Bailey Bill,” Flynn said, referring to an ordinance council passed earlier this year which allows the city to grant special tax assessments to qualified rehabilitated historic properties. “There are some things you can do to help sweeten the pot.”

Basically, the draft ordinance proposes to allow the city to be able to grant certain incentives on a case-by-case basis to certain types of businesses in a designated area(s) of the city to be determined by council. The idea is promote growth, revitalization and redevelopment in the designated area and be put together in such a way to make the city and its citizens the ordinance’s main beneficiaries.

The ordinance outlines an application process and criteria for qualifying for the proposed incentives.

Flynn said similar ordinances have been implemented by neighboring cities, most notably Hartsville, which incentivized its efforts to redevelop and enhance its downtown main street area.

Incentives would only be granted to a recipient through an agreement reached between the city and applicant. All incentives would be in the form of reimbursements and refunds of fees and taxes. The businesses would need to make a minimum investment, currently suggested at $250,000; would need to increase tourism; and would need to create new full time jobs.

Incentives would be determined based on the amount of capital investment, the amount of new revenue directly created and the number of new jobs created by the development.

The city could grant such incentives as reimbursement -- up to 100 percent -- of applicable tap fees, up to 50 percent of building permit fees, up to 50 percent of business license fees and local accommodations tax fees for as many as five years provided such incentives were spent on tourism related purposes, and other incentives council determines as appropriate on a case-by-case basis. No incentive would be granted “up front.”

“The idea is to maintain some oversight and control over the end result,” Flynn said. “You don’t want to give anything on the front end, because there is no recourse with that.”

Council also could further utilize existing state incentives such as property tax credits authorized by the Abandoned Building Act, Textiles Revitalization Act and Retail Revitalization Act, as well as real property tax credits for fire sprinkler system installation, Flynn said.

Mayor Tony Scully and council members all seemed to agree the city could benefit from implementing such incentives, but exactly how and where need to be determined.

“If we’re not in the game, then we will miss out,” Councilman Jeffrey Graham said.

Graham noted county council was poised to make a decision regarding a bond issue to improve industrial parks, which it passed the same evening as city council’s meeting.

“We do have an opportunity to do something here, ourselves,” Graham said.

“I think we need to decide those areas that really need the attention and exactly how we want to do it, “Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford said. 

Councilwoman Deborah Davis agreed, suggesting council meet in a work session for further discussion of the ordinance, which council agreed to do.

In other business:

• Council heard a presentation from Tourism Director Suzi Sale.

• Council heard a presentation regarding an upcoming exhibit at the Camden Archives and Museum from Director Katherine Richardson.

• Council passed a proclamation designating this Thursday as Arbor Day as well as proclamations designating the week of Oct. 25-31 as Environmental Systems Operators Week and November 2015 as National Hospice Palliative Care Month.

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