Monday, October 24, 2011

Development finance: how to

We all know that everything cities and counties do is linked to the statutory authority afforded to them by the General Assembly. And like it or not, NC law says that it is OK to give grants and loans to spur private investment. Cities and Counties are granted this authority (in a very broad, by golly it’s almost unconceivable how much faith the statutes put in us) under G.S. 158-7.1 the Local Development Act.
Here’s the language:  “each county and city…is authorized to make appropriations for the purposes of aiding and encouraging the location of manufacturing enterprises….and locating industrial and commercial plants…or OTHER PURPOSES (what purposes dear lawmaker? Well, you decide what that means, Miss local government)  which, in the discretion of the governing body…will increase the population, taxable property, agricultural; industries, and business prospects of any city or county.”
That’s wide-ranging authority, for sure!
But hold your horses. The Constitution of the state- you know, that little document that governs the structure and function of state government. The highest legal document there is. The one that subjugates all other NC law. King of the mountain, if you would. So, while the statutes are broad and allow you to “other purpose” your development incentives, the constitution isn’t so blasé with tax dollars. It specifically states that the power of taxation can be exercised  for public purposes only. And that our local governments can contract with and appropriate money to any person, association, or corporation for the accomplishment of public purposes only”.
So what does this mean? We've got to follow both the constitution and statutes..but they say two different things...can't I just pick one. Tthe answer is NO!
The next few post will center on how a local government can incentivize economic development. And whats really getting me…the answer I really want to know…when can a local government offer cash incentives for economic development? Or can it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Development finance: Industrial Revenue Bonds

Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) Program The Department of Commerce's Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) Program allows all NC cities, villages and towns to support industrial development through the sale of tax-exempt bonds. The proceeds from the bond sale are loaned to businesses to finance capital investment projects at, primarily, manufacturing facilities. Even though IRBs are municipal bonds, they are not general obligations of the municipality. The company or business that will use the facilities provides the interest and principal payments on the loan. The local government is in partnership with the business, lending its name, but not its credit, to the bond issue.

Revenue from financed projects
Legal projects
Projects that generate revenues (GS 159-81) and Special Assessment projects (GS 153A, Art 9A; GS 160A, Art 10A )  (County landfill)
Feasible projects
Projects that generate sufficient revenue (hospital expansion)
Voter approval
LGC approval
Bond counsel
Public or private sale
Usually public or USDA
Method of sale

Learn more about submitting an application here:

Sustainability: wind farming

The News and Observer is reporting that the public will have the opportunity to hear comments on a proposed 11,000 acre wind farm in Beaufort County. The N.C. Utilities Commission, which is reviewing the application for the 80-megawatt project, will hold its first public hearing at the Beaufort County Courthouse at 7 p.m. Nov. 17. If approved and built on schedule, the 49-turbine Pantego Wind Energy Project is expected to be completed late next year. It would probably be the state's first industrial-scale wind farm.

The nation’s largest independent owners of wind-generating facilities in the United States are behind the plan.
Although the energy generated by the wind farm is destined to be shared with 12 other states and the District of Columbia, Beaufort County could see up to $1 million a year, including property tax revenue, lease payments to landowners and salaries to local employees, from the project.

Pantego Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy, earlier this month filed an application with the N.C. Utilities Commission for permission to build 49 492-foot-tall turbines on 11,000 acres near Terra Ceia and Pantego.

The commission will hold a second hearing Dec. 6 in Raleigh to consider evidence from accountants, engineers and other experts.

The Pantego project was proposed in September by Invenergy, a company that operates more than two dozen wind farms in this country. The Pantego proposal will also require approval from federal environmental regulators and from military installations. The project would have a capacity factor of 25 percent to 36 percent, which means it would generate that portion of its maximum energy capacity.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Historic Preservation: vinyl vs wood windows

Why are wood windows better?
Tampa Preservation Inc created a great video which addresses, via lego-like droids, the assumption that vinyl windows are better than repairing original wood windows. Its a must watch!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Historic Preservation: Revisited

This video presents today's version of  historic preservation- how it goes beyond the velvet ropes and irate blue-haired ladies stereotype to deliver community-building results that are good for our heritage, planet and yes, people.  Rhonda Sincavage, National Trust for Historic Preservation, may just be my new hero!

Community development: Access

Those pesky potholes in Columbus, Ohio may get fixed faster thanks to some bright engineering students at Ohio State. Residents of the city will soon have a new tool at their disposal thanks in part to students of The Ohio State University computer science and engineering program.

Software engineering students were tasked with establishing a proof of concept and fundamental development of the app in conjunction with the City of Columbus Department of Technology.

The “My Columbus” app suite features four sections:

• 311, which allows residents to report issues like graffiti and potholes, with the capability of uploading a photo;

• My Neighborhood, which provides quick information about government services, private sector services, entertainment and local shops;

• GreenSpot, which offers tips on how to be more environmentally friendly; and

• GetActive, which gives locations of local parks and recreation centers, walking and biking paths, exercise tips and health advice."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Historic Preservation: Bath house revisited

 I suppose it’s hard to expect anything different in late July from a blogger located in the Southeast … the thought of heat, the dealings with the temperatures, the slow broil as you walk outside for lunch. The exhaustion. The last minute “make that iced” to the barista. It’s hot out there. …I can’t help but wonder how others found their reprieve....which brings me to the bath house.

The bathhouse is an age old public use, that in my humble opinion, is one of most interesting ways historically and communally people gathered. Throughout civilization, bath houses have played some role in socialization and cleansing rituals. Some societies even attached religion to the practice. In Japan Misogi, is the ritual purification with water.  In Greece the practice of bathing was ritualized, becoming an art – of cleansing sands, hot water, hot air in dark vaulted "vapor baths," a cooling plunge, a rubdown with aromatic oils. In Portland, Oregon the Oasis is a transportable bath house built out of an airstream trailer, complete with grey water management systems and a tankless water heater ....By golly, water is just plain fun.

Well, one creative group has found a unique way to cool off America’s Big Apple and raise awareness for the River- floating pools! So I ask, is this the next generation of public bath houses?

Sustainability: Tool box

Officials in NC now have one more strategy to add to their growing tool box when financing energy conservation projects; Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs).  Effectively, QECB’s allow you to buy-down a 5% interest rate to 1.5% (the federal government provides a cash subsidy for 70% of the taxable interest rate).
These bonds can be used to finance expenditures related to:
1. Reducing energy consumption in publiclyowned buildings by at least 20 percent,
2. Implementing green community programs,
3. Rural development involving the production of electricity from renewable energy resources,
4. Any qualified facility……which include wind facilities, closedloop and openloop biomass facilities, geothermal or solar energy facilities, small irrigation power facilities, landfill gas facilities, trash to energy facilities, hydropower facilities and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities
5.  Expenditures with respect to research facilities, and research grants, to support research in –
a.       Development of cellulosic ethanol or other nonfossil fuels,
b.      Technologies for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide produced through the use of fossil fuels,
c.       Increasing the efficiency of existing technologies for producing non
fossil fuels,
d.      Automobile battery technologies and other technologies to reduce fossil fuel consumption in transportation, or
e.      Technologies to reduce energy use in buildings
6. Mass commuting facilities and related facilities that reduce the consumption of energy, including expenditures to reduce pollution from vehicles used for mass commuting.
7. Demonstration projects designed to promote the commercialization of –
a.       Green building technology,
b.      Conversion of agricultural waste for use in the production of fuel or otherwise,
c.       Advanced battery manufacturing technologies,
d.      Technologies to reduce peak use of electricity, or
e.      Technologies for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide emitted from combusting fossil fuels in order to produce electricity.
8.       Public education campaigns to promote energy efficiency.

Given that this federal subsidy is structured a lot like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) and that that program is arguably the most successful of all federal affordable housing programs, I see nothing but good fortune in tea leaves for it.

For more general information about QECBs, visit: (search for QECB)
Source: Mary Tiger, UNC Environmental Finance Center.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sustainability: Policy development

On Friday, June 24, 2011, Governor Beverly Perdue signed SB 708 into law and, with it, approved a new Energy Conservation Code for the residential and commercial buildings in North Carolina. This new code, the fruit of over two years of work (discussions polarized entire sectors of the building trades), aims to save home and business owners money on their monthly energy bills and will work to retain and create jobs in every region of our state. It delivers significant improvements in insulation levels, window performance and building envelope air leakage reduction. The new code also includes the High Efficiency Residential Option (HERO) Appendix which delivers a 30% improvement in minimum energy efficiency over the state’s current energy code.

The new NC Energy Conservation Code has an effective date of January 1, 2012.

Go NC!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sustainability: wind farming

Have you ever driven on Hwy 10 through the eastern slope of California, near Coachella Valley?  Its lovely country. The mountains rise 9,000 feet up, with deep passes and slopes. Its not green, rather dusty and barren. Just like what you would imagine a meeting of mountains and deserts to look like.

If you drove blindly in like I did there's a chance you were surprised, maybe even awestruck, by the sight of a massive wind farm on the San Gorgonia mountain pass. It’s one of the windiest places in southern California. I remember that day fondly.

We had been driving for hours. It was hot. Our car lacked air conditioning. The tape deck was jammed with Modest Mouse's first album "This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About Nothing".  It was one of those travel days where the only thing left to do is focus on the road.  But even that gets tiring.  Maybe you're thinking about nothing. Maybe you're thinking way too much (I usually fall into this category)....And then BAM.... out of the blue -these massive wind turbines pop up...They move slowly. Methodically. Amazingly, they hum.  It’s extraordinary.

I clearly remember that moment. Captivated. That’s what I was.

Well, looks like North Carolina is going to have the chance to surprise some folks, too. Both Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties Board of Commissioners approved a wind farm capable of producing enough electricity to power 75,000 homes. Atlantic Winds will begin producing power by 2013. The project straddles county lines and will result in landowners receiving $1million annually in leases...for fifty years!!!

Now thats rural development.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Community development: Access

Two North Carolina State Departments are going mobile. The Department of Cultural Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation both announced the release of mobile applications that allow smartphone users to access information about their government agencies. That means putting everything from Civil War history to trail maps in the palm of a user's hand.

To access the Culture App (, available for Android devices, connects users with news and nearby sites of cultural history.

Or the Parks and Recreation App:
( available for iPod Touch, iPhone and Android devices.

Gratis and fee based versions are available.

Government moves like this make exploring our cultural and natural assets just a bit easier and us more mobile!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sustainability: wind farming

There’s a fresh breeze blowing these days, that of wind energy.
At least two large-scale wind farm projects are in the works, and more farmland is being eyed by renewable energy companies for wind turbines.  With the high cost and unreliability of foreign oil these days, the nation is turning its attention to cleaner, domestic energy sources, including solar, wind and natural gas production.
Our region stands to lead the way in East Coast wind-generated electricity. First, as a leading agricultural region, we have plenty of land. And being near the coast, we have an abundance of steady wind.
Embracing these projects seems to be a no-brainer. Still, it pays to ask questions and retain a bit of healthy skepticism for what we might not know of any potential drawbacks.  The first wind farm proposal, called the Desert Wind Power Project, was announced in January by Portland, Ore.-based Iberdrola Renewables.
The company’s Atlantic Wind division wants to build up to 150 utility-scale wind turbines in the “desert” section of sparsely inhabited farmland that straddles Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Eighty-two wind turbines would be in Pasquotank County, while 68 would be in Perquimans — a 300-MW facility generating enough power for 70,000 homes a year — roughly that of our Albemarle region.

Last week, the North Carolina Utilities Commission gave its approval. Now, Atlantic Wind needs local permits to support access roads, substations, collection lines, a meteorological tower and operations/maintenance facility.

Perquimans County’s planners were expected to consider the application Tuesday night, May 10. Pasquotank’s Planning Commission will consider its application Wednesday night, May 11.
Most of the 20,000 acres in the project would remain as farmland with the 475-foot-tall wind turbines operating on just 2 percent of the land. Up to 300 temporary jobs would be created, and local landowners would get paid about $1 million a year for allowing the turbines to be built on their land. Iberdrola has said it would employ about two dozen people to manage the wind farm once built. A second wind farm project has been proposed by Invenergy of Chicago, which plans to construct 100 turbines in the Hales Lake area of northern Camden and Currituck counties. 
The advantages of wind power are clear: With no fossil fuels burnt, no harmful greenhouse gases are emitted. They allow surrounding farmland to continue to be farmed. And when combined with solar energy, they can provide a significant and steady supply of electricity.
According to the National Climate Data Center, through 2002 the yearly average wind speeds for Norfolk, Va., was 10.5 mph, and for Cape Hatteras, 10.9 mph — the closest weather stations posted near us. Elsewhere in the East, only New York City, Boston, Mass., Key West, Fla., Mt. Washington, N.H., and Bridgeport, Conn., had equal or higher average wind speeds.
It’s no wonder the wind energy companies want to be here. And we see no reason why they shouldn’t be here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Preservation: Energy efficiency guidance

Interested in learning more about how to seamlessly integrate preservation and green building practices?  The National Park Service recently released The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings (PDF). Developed by the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services division, these are the first official federal guidelines for how to make changes to improve energy efficiency and preserve the character of historic buildings.

I really like the format; examples of “recommended” treatments and “not recommended” treatments make it a user friendly reference tool for the preservationist, HPC staff member or contracting professional.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sustainability: State Energy Conference

Last week, I attended the 8th Annual Sustainability Energy Conference sponsored by the Energy Division of the NC Department of Commerce. There were over 1,000 people vending, presenting and like myself, just plain interested in seeing how this field is emerging.  Some cool facts. The state is focusing its resources (staff and funding) on six emerging sectors. They are as follows:
1. Solar. Did you know that NC is the 9th largest supplier of solar energy in the nation? I didn't and am pretty impressed with that statistic. We also offer some of the best personal, commercial and industrial state tax credits. They are summarized here.
2. Off-shore wind development: Is considered the next frontier of energy. UNC has done a substantial amount of research testing the opportunities engendered into our inner and outer coasts.  I learned that there's a race between our exiting state energy suppliers (Duke, Progress) and the more diverse suppliers such as Iberdrola Renewables, as well as our neighboring states- South Carolina and Virginia to lead the nation with this energy source. Morehead City, the Pamlico Sound and OBX all offer promising locations for developing wind energy.  Manufacturing, shipping and energy supply could be enhanced through policy and funding dedicated to launching this new market....Tuesday's Luncheon Keynote Speaker was David Shadle, Managing Director for Wind Business Development, Iberdrola Renewables. His discussion centered on Wind Development in the South and Other Tall Orders. was all very exciting and keeps me hopeful that we may actually recover down east from the loss of manufacturing jobs.
3. Smart Grid: I must have been daydreaming about small scale wind farms on the Pamlico Sound as I didn't write anything down about Smart Grid technology
4. Electrical Vehicles: Get Ready Raleigh is one of three EPA funded test sites. With support from lots of different groups, the City of Raleigh has successfully installed 3 publically available Eaton charging stations downtown. Actions have spurred other local entities to begin installing infrastructure, including the installation of 21 charging stations in a newly constructed parking deck. Raleigh is planning for the installation of additional charging stations.... I wonder if they need a small, rural community to set up a plug-in station for all those interested in "staycationing" this summer....
5. Biofuels: the goal here is to TRIPLE production over the next three years...a tall order. Check out this cutting-edge co-op,, my husband helped to construct their straw-bale solar biodiesel warmer...
6. Energy Efficiency in Buildings: It’s estimated that 60% of Green Economy jobs will surface from this sector; everybody from the home contractor to the industrial energy efficient expert is slapped into this category. I think the biggest challenge for improving the energy efficiency of our buildings lies in the market, or the lack thereof. I'm of the opinion that if we really want to see growth local, state and federal administrations should incentivize residential and commercial markets; refundable tax credits, low interest loans, guaranteed energy savings, etc

Monday, April 18, 2011

Community Development: Fair Housing

April is National Fair Housing Month. What is fair housing month all about, you ask? Well, HUD's website does a good job explaining how the Civil Rights Act/Fair Housing Act came to be and subsequently how locals came to celebrate and raise awareness for equal opportunity housing. You can find that summary here.  

In reviewing the legislative history, I'm reminded that government action is often a long, difficult journey. As they continue on with the FY11 budget and legislative process, I hope our leaders are proactive; make decisions that mindful of the safety of others, promote an expanding economy and keep quality of life issues at the top of their agendas.

So..with no further adieu: Our community is hosting a Fair Housing Forum on 4.28.11 at 6pm at City Hall. Join us if you can!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Sustainability: District energy

West Union, Iowa….WOW, you! With ARRA support, this rural Main Street Community could serve as a model to other small communities across the country, demonstrating that environmental and economic stability, considered together, can keep America’s Main Streets vital and thriving.  
Their mostly brick, two-story building downtown has seen more prosperous days, nevertheless local leaders have not grown complacent. In recent years, with the aim of luring more visitors downtown, they have embarked on an ambitious project that incorporates green technology and design. The center piece of this effort is both age-old and cutting edge: a “district energy” plan that will provide residents and property owners with access to cheap and renewable geothermal power.
According to Preservation Magazine, “at the start of the 20th Century, the notion that multiple buildings could share a heating system, usually a boiler and steam based, was popular; examples survive at colleges and hospitals around the country. But district energy fell out of favor in the 1950’s as suburban development began in earnest, and planners became less interested in Main Street infrastructure.”
Today, with over $8 million in grants, West Union plans to create a neighborhood sized public utility that will draw energy directly from the ground.

The Geothermal Energy Association has a wealth of information about this energy source. And we all know, I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of Geothermal Energy, but rather to stay abreast of the initiatives that spark community enthusiasm, makes us all say "why didn't I think of that"  and improve the quality of life. What’s happening in West Union’s downtown seems to fit that bill.

Here’s the preservation lab news brief

Preservation: loan pool

Nothing says love like no interest loans. The City of Greenville, NC is considering the adoption of a program that would incentivize rehabilitation efforts and capitalize on preserving the original fabric of Greenville's historic district.

With support from his local preservation commission, I wish Seth Laughlin, historic preservation planner, the best of luck in securing council's vote to move this project forward.

Here's a link summarizing the  historic preservation loan pool program: 

Where's my revolving loan fund?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Preservation: way cool

Germans get so much of it right- diversity in education, family-supportive maternity leave laws, walkability in community design, snug fitting, big-buttoned military jackets (one of my favorite looks)...and here is another great example if them making something cool...preservation!

Under the name of “Dispatchwork” (all puns intended), Berliners are taking to the streets with a medium that will take you right back to your childhood: LEGOs! As described, the project “is part urban art installation, part historical highlighting (since many of the gaps date back to World War II) and part method of calling attention to buildings that could use some help.”

And while I doubt this fits the bill as “sensitive materials” for patching up places that matter, I adore the project as an attention-getting public service announcement. I’m also incredibly jealous. File under things I wish I had thought of.

Link here

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Legislative scorecard: March 16

Introduced in the House this week:  H100, would require nonprofit corporations get at least 35 percent of their funding from private sources and keep administrative expenses below 16 percent to receive state grants. Sponsors: Reps. Larry Brown, R-Forsyth, and George Cleveland, R-Onslow. Such changes would completely alter the landscape of "qualified" nonprofits.

In the committees: S27, to place a statewide moratorium on involuntary annexations until July 1, 2012. Recommended for approval, Senate State and Local Government Committee. Next: To the full Senate.

OTHER IDEAS: The union representing state employees offered a list of suggestions it said could close next year's budget gap without layoffs. The report by the State Employees Association of North Carolina recommends allowing four-day workweeks, consolidating state health services and ending corporate incentives and special tax breaks to the motorsports and film industries. The group says its proposals of more than $10 billion in savings or revenue options should be considered before cutting state jobs.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue is expected to release her budget Thursday. Perdue and Republican legislative leaders have said layoffs are likely in the next budget year as negotiators try to close a projected budget gap of between $2 billion and $3 billion

Monday, March 14, 2011

Planning bites: the billboard bill

S.183 would allow electronic billboards to be erected, override  community regulations regarding the location and appearance of those billboards, and expand the area where public trees can be cleared along roadways.
The legislation is strongly opposed by neighborhood associations, the N.C. League of Municipalities, N.C. Association of County Commissioners, N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association, and N.C. Metro Mayors Coalition.
Key Features of Legislation
Among other things, S.183 would:
1)    Allow digital billboards every 1,500 feet on each side of any interstate or primary highway – as many as 7 digital billboards every mile.
2)    Allow ad changes every 8 seconds -- more than 10,000 messages/billboard each day.
3)    Override local regulations and allow existing billboards to convert to digital, as long as the billboard is at least 1500 feet from another digital billboard.
4)    Expands the area where trees can be cleared in front of billboards, and overrides local tree cutting ordinances on interstates and federally assisted highways.
Key Points About Billboards
1)      Billboard messages cannot be controlled.  Too often, advertising on billboards is for alcohol and sex businesses, which cannot be legally prohibited. 
2)      Billboards installed today will be here for generations.  As a result of 2004 state legislation, taxpayers have to buy out billboards if they want them removed.  The cost can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per billboard, making them all but permanent.
3)      This is an issue of local control and community values.  Please protect the right of citizens to make their own decisions about their community appearance.

Planning bites: internet sweepstaks

NC Senate introduced a bill that would prevent local ordinances from regulating internet sweepstakes and video lotteries. This bill, if voted into law, also prohibits local taxes and fees on the industry and repeals any such existing regulations.  Here is the link for the proposed House Bill 228 - video lottery entertainment:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Economic development: CDBG remains vunerable

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a continuing resolution package (H.R. 1) that was to include a 62.5 percent cut (or $2.5 billion) to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The House eventually passed H.R. 1, which will reduce non-security discretionary spending by $60 billion below current levels in the remaining months of 2011. The bill passed 235 for and 189 against. North Carolina's delegation voted along party lines with the exception of Rep. Walter Jones, who voted with Democrats. 
Fortunately, according to the National League of Cities (NLC),  the U.S. Senate leadership has indicated it will not pass H.R.1 in its current form, and President Obama has already said he would veto it. 

However, given the pressure to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, the program remains vulnerable to cuts as a part of any spending package, and we need your help urging Representatives and Senators to freeze, not cut, the program at $4 billion, the FY 2010 level. 
This week, Congress is in recess. NLC is asking city leaders to take this opportunity to “show and tell” your Representatives and Senators the many benefits of CDGB in your communities. 
To assist in your advocacy efforts with your Representatives and Senators during the recess and beyond, here’s a link to resources:  CDBG Action Alert.  (These materials also can be found on NLC’s home page:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Economic development: Hybrid Public Financing Mechanisms

November 2004, the citizens of North Carolina approved an amendment to the state constitution that enabled for the first time the use of tax-increment financing in the state. North Carolina became the 49th state to permit the use of this public financing tool that allows bond debt from public investments in infrastructure and other public facilities development to be secured by the increase in tax revenue anticipated from private development spurred by those public investments.

An offshot of traditional TIF is a "Synthetic TIF".  This method of public fiancing has some similarities to TIF but that does not depend on the amendment to the state Constitution and the issuance of bonds backed by an anticipated increment in tax values. Synthetic TIFs can take a variety of forms. One example is where the developer agrees to finance and construct the public facilities or infrastructure, and the local government agrees, contingent upon sufficient increase in tax valuation over time, either to acquire the completed facilities or to make an economic development grant to the developer to cover the project costs. Thus, the risk that the tax increment will be sufficient to cover the project costs is borne by the developer rather than the local government. The local government may pay the developer out of general funds or issue debt, knowing that the incremental tax revenue is available to meet the payment obligation.

Here's what it looks like:
            Empty 1 acre lot/vacant building = $50,000 tax value
$ 770 total annual tax (before development)

Completed development = $1,000,000 construction/development  = $750,000 tax value
$ 11,550 total annual tax (after development)

Under the above example, owner pays $11,550 annually in county and city taxes.
Owner is "granted" back annually $10,807 ($11,550 - $770) for 5 years = $53,900 total grant!
These synthetic TIFs create revenue streams through grant payments and no public debt is issued. Additionally, they are project specific and much easier and cost effective.

All in favor, say I!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Economic development: Buy local

"Buy Local" Campaigns Making a Difference.

Washington/Beaufort Chamber of Commerce supports a "Keep the bucks in Beaufort" program. Here's a link to their website These buy local campaigns are nothing new but sure do have an impact .A national survey of independent businesses found that those in communities with an active "buy local" campaign experienced significantly stronger revenue growth in 2010 compared to those located in areas without one.
From the press release:
"The survey, which was conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses. It found that those in places with an active "buy local" campaign run by an Independent Business Alliance or Local First group reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.
Business owners active in these community initiatives also reported a wide range of benefits, including greater customer loyalty and more awareness of the needs of independent businesses among city officials.
Similar surveys over the last three years have produced similar results."
Source: New Rules Project, January 26, 2011 

ARRA: Lighting retrofit grant

The City of Washington was awarded a $259,979 grant to complete an energy efficiency project on seven municipal buildings. With the award, the city will begin transforming its facilities into sustainable buildings that operate efficiently, reduce energy consumption and emissions, thereby reducing utility expenses and retaining jobs. The second goal is to stimulate the economy by creating jobs in the local area as much as possible. Priority will be placed on contractors/subcontractors with employees living in the city and/or Beaufort County.  With these goals in place, the City of Washington is confident that all tax payer dollars are going towards stimulating the economy and promoting energy efficiency conservation.

Washington’s Energy Efficiency Project will require the following equipment and technologies be used:
·         Retrofitting T12 lamps with high efficiency T8 lamps with electronic ballasts and incandescent and mercury vapor to fluorescent.
·         Retrofitting Incandescent lamps to compact florescent lamps (CFLs) and LED Exit Sign Retrofits
·         Installing direct fired gas air heating system to replace the existing hot water heating system.

The following buildings will be including in the project: The Impressions Building; City Hall; Brown Library; Communications Center; Civic Center; Peterson Building; and Susiegray McConnell Aquatic Center; These buildings are owned by the city.

An RFP will be made available over the next 30 days to begin the search for qualified contractors.

Planning bites: semantics

'Smart Growth' Replaced by 'Intelligent Cities'

The term "smart growth" may be approaching the end of its shelf life, according to some. Its replacement: "intelligent cities". USA Today explores the changing lexicon of urban planning today. "That's not to say the principles of smart growth are dead. On the contrary, he says, they're very much alive and so widely accepted that they've become old hat. New Urbanism, the design movement frequently at the heart of smart growth, encourages a mix of homes and businesses in a pedestrian-friendly environment and is common practice now in cities big and small.

"Intelligent cities," the new darling lingo of planners, reflects the times. It captures the essence of 21st-century technology that can help track when and how many people cross a street, water and energy consumption and peak hours at every transit stop. It also will soon allow bidding on a parking space via cellphone (the space goes to the highest bidder)." Read for full story here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sustainability: baby steps

City of Washington’s payroll goes paperless

In 2010 the City of Washington kicked off the year by kicking paper pay stubs in favor of e-mailed payroll info. The move, which grew out of the City Council, will help to reduce paper use by the city and increases accurate databasing and record keeping.

Approximately 200 city employees who utilize city email addresses received digital pay info on the first payday of the year. That will mean 200 sheets of paper saved every two weeks, or 5,200 sheets over the course of the year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Planning bites: Internet sweepstakes

In the late 1990's before everyone and their mother had email access in purses and pockets, I worked at Cyber Cafe in Quito, Ecuador- El Centro Mágico. At this cafe, you could email, spend the night (it doubled as a hostel) and drink Cubra Libre's, which were complimentary after your first hour of surfing the web.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador's amazingly high mountain
El Centro Mágico was really just that- a magical place to meet young travelers and bi-lingual Ecuadorians. My chicas and I spent numerous hours emailing our then boyfriends and always worried mothers that we were OK. For Ecuador, 1999 was no party. They had just dollarized when President Jamil declared a 60 day state of emergency and called out the military to staff basic services. Incan villagers marched into the capital in protest of soaring prices (there was 65% devaluation of the national currency). In response to halted oil production, taxistas and bus drivers burned fires in the middle of prominent intersections. A doll of President Jamil hung on a noose on a skyscrapers facade. My 16-week study abroad was briefly cancelled. It was my first exposure to true political mayhem and I loved it....and El Centro Magico was the center of it all- at least for my friends and I. Too bad internet Cafes aren't what they used to of today- in Beaufort County if you are interested in opening one- you'll have to abide by some new rules.

At the December 14, 2010 Council Meeting, the City of Washington amended its zoning ordinance to allow Cyber Cafes (Internet Sweepstakes, online gaming centers) to operate as a special use in the light industrial district (I-2). The text amendment also limits the hours of operation (8am-12am), distance between other establishments (2,500 linear feet) and an annual renewal of the special use permit is required. Those operating outside of the I-2 district are grandfathered and are not subject to relocation, as long as they remain operable.