Board talks conservation and 1% land-transfer tax

Published 8:57 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2007

By Staff
Corey looks to ‘fix what’s wrong’ with Washington County
Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH — Meeting at Windows on the World in Roper on Monday, Washington County commissioners heard a proposal that could ensure the preservation of public access to some of the county’s waterways.
John R. Spruill offered to donate his share of three parcels of land, including one that borders the Albemarle Sound, in the county if Diane Williams, his sister and co-owner of the land, is paid for her share of the parcels.
But the donation comes with stipulations, which Spruill explained.
Spruill proposed using his contribution as a match for state conservation funds from the N.C. Division of Coastal Management and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Both agencies require contributions from localities receiving grants from them. The grants also put conditions on how the land can be used.
That means the county would lose tax revenue from the land if the county accepted Spruill’s offer.
Created in 1996, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund makes grants to local governments, state agencies and conservation nonprofits to help finance projects that specifically address water pollution problems. The Division of Coastal Management administers the fund and enforces state laws pertaining to coastal conservation.
Board Chairman Billy Corey showed enthusiasm over the proposal and the opportunities he said it would offer the county.
The commissioners did not act on the proposal, but they asked Peoples to seek information about grant funding Spruill mentioned. Peoples said he would begin talking with the Division of Coastal Management as soon as possible.
In other business, the board approved a resolution requesting its state legislative delegation to seek support in the N.C. General Assembly for additional Medicaid relief for the state’s counties.
The resolution passed unanimously without discussion.
With those Medicaid expenditures on top of other county projects, the board has been looking for funding sources other than its tax revenues. One of those alternatives — a land-transfer tax — was discussed at the meeting. The 1 percent tax on real-estate transfers could bring in up to $329,000 annually to the county, according to Peoples.