By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Feb. 1, 2018 | 2:45 p.m.
Revenue would be used to finance upkeep of ‘Gardens’ project
Editor’s Note: In this story, it was reported that Chairman Carmichael said the decision to delay further discussion on this topic came after speaking with the board’s newest members. The story has been corrected to reflect that the entire five-person Prince George Board of Supervisors agreed via consensus to delay discussion of the special tax district proposal.
PRINCE GEORGE – Earlier this month, supervisors heard a proposal from county staff that sought to create a special tax district where revenue proceeds from the district would go to help pay for annual upkeep and maintaining The Gardens at Exit 45 but, the brakes have been put on the matter for the time being.
During their work session in early January, supervisors via consensus agreed to have the matter added to the agenda of last week’s regular board meeting where the option to move forward with a public hearing would have been decided. Instead, it was crossed off the agenda and not part of discussions during the Tuesday meeting.
When asked, Prince George Board Chairman Alan Carmichael explained it was his decision to have the matter removed from the agenda after speaking with his fellow board members who wished to have more time to review the matter and speak with business and property owners in the area about their thoughts on the proposal.
Prior to last week’s meeting of the Prince George Board of Supervisors, the agenda featured an item that would have saw leaders make a decision on moving forward on advertising a proposal to create a special tax district that includes areas along U.S. Route 301 that link up with Interstate 95’s Exit 45 and are part of the million-dollar Gardens at Exit 45 project that was recently completed and jointly paid for by the county and The Cameron Foundation.
According to county documents, through the imposition of a tax of 4 cents per $100 of assessed value within the special district, which would be in addition to the current countywide real estate tax rate of 86 cents per $100 of assessed real property value, the county would be able to pay for the roughly $10,000 per year in maintenance, upkeep, and landscaping costs associated with the project, seen as an investment into one of Prince George County’s key economic corridors.
Per the county’s memorandum of understanding with The Cameron Foundation, Prince George is responsible for the upkeep of The Gardens now that the site has been formally completed.
In January, County Administrator Percy Ashcraft conceded it is the county’s position to not have the county involved in the maintenance of the area, instead encouraging business and property owners to create their own association where they can collect fees and take the lead in keeping the area up but, there has been little movement in that direction by those who operate businesses or own property in the area.
“If you pull money away from the county coffers to pick up this $10,000 in costs to maintain the site, that is easy to do, but it is not generating any buy-in from businesses and owners down there from the considerable amount of money that was put there by The Cameron Foundation and the county to get to this point,” Ashcraft said, referring to the $1.2 million price tag shared equally by the two parties.
While no timetable has been announced of when the matter will be placed on a board of supervisors meeting agenda, at the January work session, County Administrator Ashcraft said the county is committed to working with those who would fall within the proposed service district to find an alternative solution but progress was slow going.
“We have tried and still at this hour, the preference of county staff would be for property owners to create their own association where they collect the money, have their own officers, and they do the maintenance,” Ashcraft remarked. “While no votes were taken, it was clear there couldn’t be an agreement that this is what they wanted to do.”
At last month’s work session, county officials added they would like the proposed ordinance to be approved in conjunction with the Fiscal Year 2019 budget before June 30 of this year “so as of July 1, 2018, the special district may be created for billing within the County system.”