'Big Projects' Are Interested In Farmville, Town Readies Incentives

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2015

FARMVILLE — The Town of Farmville is expected to move quickly to adopt water and sewer tap fee incentives to attract new business, in general, and two potential projects specifically.

Town council’s Community Development & Marketing Committee has been commissioned to present a proposed incentive plan next month.

The issue was discussed at length during town council’s January work session last week.

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“There’s a lot of interest in developing some major projects here right now and what I think what we’re going to have to do is make some kind of concession as far as tap fees for some of these projects,” Town Manager Gerald Spates said, initiating the discussion. “With some of these projects the tap fees are going to be major and it may be that it throws that project off.”

Farmville Mayor David E. Whitus said that he, too, had heard “several people have mentioned big projects.”

The town manager said the projects he was speaking about “are already ready to go to fruition.”

Hence town council’s expectation that the committee, chaired by Ward B council member Sally Thompson, will come up with incentive proposals in four weeks.

The town is expected to offer a special rate on water and sewer taps for any new projects, perhaps for as long as a year, with the option of renewing the incentives annually.

The town will consider similar incentives offered by other communities.

“We have incentives in place in some areas, like in the enterprise zone we do have incentives,” Spates pointed out, “but I’m talking about for these major projects. Our present taps fees right now are a detriment to the project.”

At-large council member Tommy Pairet wondered whether the Town should address incentives project by project rather than adopt a policy.

“Do we dare take them one by one?” he asked.

Adopt a policy, the town manager replied, “for a period of time, something you could renew and see what kind of interest you get.”

The tap fee incentives, per town council’s discussion, would apply to all new commercial projects, regardless of size, and residential hook-ups, too.

“Make it for all of them” Whitus said.

What kind of discount mightbe offered?

Spates offered an example.

“Anybody who wants to hook into the water system, they can do it for $2,000 a piece (per tap), plus the cost to put it in, rather than $8,000, as an incentive to attract a business,” he said, before specifying, “this one (project) that I’m talking about, it’s going to be a major boost for downtown.”

The idea drew strong support from council members.

“The draw of it,” Ward D council member Donald L. Hunter said of such incentives, “and I don’t know what size project you’re talking about, the draw of it, itself, to get that break, will show that we’re still open for business.”

Or, Thompson added, “that we’re encouraging new business.”

Pairet wondered about the appearance of “catering to this specific group (project)…”

No, not necessarily, Spates replied. “You’ve got other projects that are on hold,” he said, and the tap fee incentives may be just what they need to “make that project go, or some other project…”

And, Hunter said, “we can see if we want to extend it (for another year).”

Yes, the town manager agreed.

When Ward E council member Jamie Davis spoke to Spates of some prospective projects having already approached the town manager “so you have an idea” what the impact of the incentives might be, Spates said “there are two major projects right now that are really looking…”

At-Large council member Dan Dwyer asked Spates “how quickly would you like to see something in place?” and the town manager answered, “I think we need something pretty quick, like by next council meeting (in February), if we could.”

While anything like a reduction in tap fees from $8,000 to $2,000 would yield less upfront revenue for the Town’s coffers, in the long-term, town council expects, that loss will be more than made up for by the long-term economic gain of any new major business development.

“Incentives usually yield,” Mayor Whitus said, “pretty good dividends at the end of the day.”