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Kannapolis citizens sound off on proposed tax district

By Joanie Morris

Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — Citizens here got to weigh in with their thoughts on the self-financing bond or tax increment financing, district Monday night and comments were as varied as concern about retired neighbors to regional investments.

Community members within the district were notified the week of Nov. 6, and a notice was placed in local papers. Rowan and Cabarrus counties were also given notice of the development financing plan. Each county had a 28-day review period, in which they could object to the plan. Neither county chose to reject the plan.

Jerry Lewis, a retired Kannapolis resident, asked council during the public hearing what the bond would cost the taxpayers, as well as other questions.

“Why are you building another park?” Lewis asked. “We have parks out the ying-yang.”

As a retired citizen, he also wanted to know how the city would keep people on fixed incomes from losing their homes.

“There’s a breaking point somewhere,” Lewis said. “I’m just tired of being pushed.”

Members of a new group in Kannapolis, called SPEAR (South Piedmont Economic Action for Recovery) also spoke during the meeting. The group is dedicated to promoting economic recovery through organization, advocacy, political education and training in order to impact public policy on issues relating to opportunities and justice for working people.

Connie Leeper, organizer of the group, spoke about the redevelopment, adding that it is “not just bricks and mortar.”

“We’re very excited about the N.C. Research Campus,” Leeper told council. She asked about the impact of the lawsuit spearheaded by Robert “Bob” Orr against the constitutional amendment allowing self-financing bonds, as well as economic incentives.

She wanted to know if business that received monies from the venture capital fund “also receive public economic incentives?”

“In terms of the city of Kannapolis, we definitely want to have some say-so on how (public) monies are used,” Leeper said. She suggested that incentives to businesses in Kannapolis be attached to local jobs for local residents. She also questioned how tax incentives — or rebates — would affect the repayment of bonds for businesses that receive incentive grants within the bond district.

Ryan McDaniels, director of economic development in Cabarrus County, spoke on the benefits the county is already seeing as a result of the announcement of the North Carolina Research Campus.

“As I travel across the nation and meet with colleagues, we often talk about this project,” McDaniels said. “It’s just amazing … Because of this research campus and the work underway … we’ve already had projects visit us that wouldn’t have considered Cabarrus County, wouldn’t have considered Kannapolis, without the research campus.”

He also pointed out that the tax increment financing would increase the quality of life in the area.

Others spoke on many of the same points others brought to council, with nine people addressing the council. After that, City Manager Mike Legg and council members tried to answer a few of the questions.

“In reality, being inside the bond district will not (have an) impact on taxes,” Legg told the group. The only impact will come from revaluation or restoration of properties within the district that would cause values to go up. “It does not have anything to do with being inside this district.”

Legg also said there is no question that things have to be done upfront in order for the project to move smoothly. In addition, once infrastructure projects paid for by the bonds are completed, and even before, excess funds from the project — which are expected to be an average of $3 to $4 million annually — will likely be “reinvested in our neighborhoods, especially ones in and around downtown.”

“That money can be reinvested in our community,” Legg said. “This process will allow us to invest so that we, the citizens, own the investments. Mr. (David) Murdock never asked for a tax incentive. He asked for a partnership.”

Now that all requirements of the bond conditions have been met, city council can approve the plan, but it will not become effective until approved by the Local Government Commission, which the city thinks will approve later this month or in January.

Once approved, the development financing plan confirms:

* The boundaries of the district.

* The proposed public and private development of the district.

* The costs of the proposed public activities.

* The sources and amounts of funds to pay for the public activities.

* The base valuation of the district.

* The projected incremental increase in property valuation of the land located within the district after completion of the improvements.

* How the proposed development of the district will benefit the residents and business owners of the district in terms of jobs, affordable housing or services.

* Any action that will be undertaken if the proposed project has a negative impact on residents or business owners of the district in terms of jobs, affordable housing, services or displacement.

The proposed district for paying of the bonds can’t be more than 5 percent of the city’s total municipal jurisdiction. For Kannapolis, that is 1007.732 acres. Currently, the proposed district is composed of approximately 864.548 acres, or 4.255 percent of the city’s municipal jurisdiction.

The proposed district contains 34.179 acres in Rowan County and 830.369 acres in Cabarrus County. It consists of the development of the North Carolina Research Campus in downtown Kannapolis on the sites of the former Pillowtex Plant No. 1 and 4; stretches of Main Street reaching north into Rowan County and south into the Midway area of Kannapolis; and legs west down Mooresville Road, where the new Kannapolis Parkway is; and an area off N.C. 29 near Kannapolis Intermediate School and A.L. Brown High School. The residential area is poised for new growth, city leaders believe.

According to Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith, the proposed district is indicated as having the highest potential for positive redevelopment.

He and other city staff and council members pointed out that the district does not mean a special tax will be levied on residents within the district.

“There’s no special tax,” Smith said prior to the public hearing. “Sometimes, that takes some one-on-one discussion.”

Once the district is set, the city can start making money to pay for the bonds. If the property value on a house is $100,000, and the owner is paying $.497 per $100 in valuation, he’ll pay $497 in taxes for the 2006 year. That money will go into the general fund to run the city as it always has.

When the house value goes up — either due to revaluation or renovations and improvements on the home — and it is then worth $150,000, at the same rate, the homeowner would pay $497 to the general fund for the original valuation of $100,000 and $246 for the additional $50,000 in valuation. The additional $246 for the home within the district would go to pay off part of the bond. Revaluation will occur again in Cabarrus County in 2008, to go into effect in January 2009.

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@salisburypost.com.

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