Poolesville is considering a plan to give businesses a financial incentive for cleaning up their exteriors or bringing jobs to town, but some officials wonder how effective the measure would be.
The proposed policy would let businesses apply for a tax break or an incentive if they improve the appearance of their buildings, add jobs, help revitalize the town’s commercial areas or add to the local tax base, according to a draft of the proposal.
The town’s Board of Commissioners discussed the issue at a meeting Monday. Board President Jim Brown said he’d like to put it on the agenda in about a month for a final decision.
Brown said he recently received a letter from a resident who criticized how some businesses in town had let their exteriors deteriorate.
He agreed that some businesses have let their appearances slip.
“It’s one thing to be old-timey,” Brown said. “It’s another thing to look like crap.”
Under the proposal, businesses would have to submit an application to the town that meets a majority of seven requirements, such as expanding the local tax base, filling spaces in the town’s commercial zone in a way that’s consistent with Poolesville’s master plan and helping increase economic development.
The town would deny an incentive for plans that the commissioners think would cause “unreasonable aesthetic and/or environmental concerns,” hurt the town’s tax base, create a public safety hazard, or hurt nearby properties or existing businesses.
If a business meets the general criteria, the commissioners would consider how much property value would be added to the town’s tax base, how the project would affect existing businesses, how the project fits into the town’s master plan, how many and what types of jobs would be created, and the business’s overall effect on the community.
Under the proposal, businesses that construct a new building would receive an impact fee waiver equal to what their estimated corporate personal property tax bill would be for one year.
Businesses that move into an existing building would receive a complete break of their corporate property tax in their first year and a 50 percent break in their second year.
Existing businesses that expand or make improvements to their facade would get a tax break, grant or loan worth two years of their corporate personal property taxes.
The incentives would help town officials shape how they want the downtown to look and what businesses they want, Town Manager Wade Yost said.
An incentive agreement wouldn’t begin until the applicant gets any approvals or permits required by the town code.
Commissioner Jerome Klobukowski said he’d like to see some way to ensure that the improvements that are promised have actually been done before the town gives the money.
“In other words, trust but verify,” he said.
Klobukowski said he had a problem with people who think it’s the town’s responsibility to coax them into properly maintaining their businesses.
Brown said he’s not sure the incentives will work with those businesses that aren’t already motivated to maintain their businesses.
Commissioner Brice Halbrook said he thinks the town should require businesses to put up matching funds to get the town’s portion.
“I don’t want to be out there giving no-interest loans with taxpayer money when somebody isn’t buying into it,” he said.