Archive for Thursday, May 11, 2006

Council signals nod to abatement policy

May 11, 2006

The De Soto City Council gave City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle the green light to complete an incentive policy that gives the city added tools to attract the kinds of industries it would like in the city.

Guilfoyle presented the council last Thursday with a draft of an incentive policy he created with the De Soto Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce director Sara Ritter.

As proposed, the policy would give 50 percent, 10-year abatements to industries listed in a 2003 targeted industry study. Those industries include life science endeavors, food equipment manufacturers, distribution and packaging centers and satellite administrative centers. Guilfoyle said he added corporate offices and headquarters to that list.

In addition, abatements of the same amount and term would be offered to those businesses locating in K-Ten Commerce Park, on Lexington Avenue or downtown. During prior discussion of an abatement policy, it was agreed the city should encourage development in areas that would not require the installation of new infrastructure.

The draft proposed a minimum threshold that would require those businesses relocating to De Soto to have at least a $5 million project to qualify. As proposed, existing De Soto businesses would have to have a project of at least $1.5 million to seek an abatement.

"The idea being you don't want to go through this with a small business that might not succeed or projects that won't have a substantial impact on the community," Guilfoyle said in explaining the thresholds.

The policy would also reserve abatements to those projects offering salaries equaling or bettering the average wage in an annual metropolitan survey, Guilfoyle said.

Council members agreed with the two-tiered concept, but asked that the threshold for existing businesses be reduced to $1 million.

Addressing a concern among council members, Guilfoyle said the policy shouldn't be viewed as the final word on all requests. All abatement proposals, even those fitting the target industry list proposed for designated areas, would have to be approved by the council. Moreover, the council was free to consider abatement requests from any business for any rate, he said.

It was agreed the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially with the new wastewater plant scheduled for completion early next year.

"I think this is going to be fluid and rapidly so once the sewer starts opening up," Mayor Dave Anderson said.

The council might consider adding future sewer districts to the abatement-designated areas to encourage extension of service, he said.

Guilfoyle will now refine the policy and take it to the De Soto Planning Commission.

The council soon had a chance to consider the implications of the policy. Although the project still needs to complete the planning process, council members agreed they would have no objection to offering an abatement to Fish Development's planned office complex for Commerce Park. The first phase of that project is estimated to cost $7.5 million.

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