Beaufort working on incentives to draw residents, businesses

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Beaufort working on incentives to draw residents, businesses

By ERIN MOODY
emoody@beaufortgazette.com
Published Thursday, April 5, 2012   |  458 Words  |  

The Redevelopment Commission wants new businesses and residents to come to Beaufort, and it's willing offer new incentives to get them to do so.

Those incentives, discussed during Thursday's meeting, could range from free or reduced-price land to pre-approved building designs to tax breaks.

The commission is working on a new list of incentives to post online and present to prospects. There is already an incentives list on the Office of Civic Investment website -- www.beaufortcivicinvestment.org. Additional incentives are also in other city documents. However, the incentives are scattered and don't appear to have been effective in drawing new people and businesses in, Wendy Zara, the panel's finance committee chairwoman, said.

"The incentives in the current ordinances aren't really incentives because someone would be using them (if they were)," she said.

Commission member Patrick Kase said the incentives should be clear and concise. He suggested one list for incentives, such as tax breaks that would get developers' attention, and another for financing options, such as grants for home repair that would help owners pay for projects.

One suggestion would have developers creating building designs that are pre-approved by the city. That would save time and costs because developers would not have to go through a lengthy design review process. It's an idea that has had some success in Bluffton, commission members said. Free land and using existing structures has helped Jasper County attract business, Zara and commercial committee chairman Martin Goodman said.

Tying into Thursday's discussion was Tuesday's decision by the city to buy the 167-acre Commerce Park for $1.85 million. Mayor Billy Keyserling previously said he wants the Redevelopment Commission to take a leadership role in finding business opportunities for the park.

Since the city will own the park, Zara said, it could give away land. It was not the first time a land giveaway plan has been considered. Previously, the city, following a request by the commission, agreed to consider giving almost an acre on Lafayette Street to keep costs low on a proposed affordable housing development.

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