Council reaches compromise on proposal for development

Published 1:54 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

By Staff
Belhaven interested in ‘spec’ building
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — Two schools of thought on development were debated at the Belhaven Town Council meeting Monday, but both factions found a compromise each is willing to support.
Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer, gave a brief annual report to the council on the activities of the county’s Economic Development Commission.
The EDC is nearing the end of its five-year, countywide strategic plan for growth. Thompson said the EDC is ready to begin its second phase of developing Beaufort County, which could include constructing an industry-ready building in Belhaven to help attract small manufacturers to northeastern Beaufort County.
Thompson proposed the council consider approving what he called a 5,000-square-foot “speculative incubator” facility.
The building could attract a business to the area with the incentive of being industry-ready and the added bonus of little to no rent while the business is getting started.
The purpose of the incubator, Thompson said, “is to get (the proposed industry) in operation and profitable before hitting them with rent.”
Rent would escalate over time until it reaches fair-market value, Thompson said.
The council was in agreement that such a venture would do well in Belhaven. The location of Thompson’s proposed incubator building was a matter of discussion and compromise.
Councilman Charles Boyette said the industrial park in Belhaven would be well-suited for the proposed building.
Mayor Adam O’Neal said Belhaven taxpayers don’t own the industrial park dedicated in honor of George Ebron Jr., the current mayor pro tempore and longtime councilman. O’Neal pointed out that the industrial park was owned by a local economic booster, the Community Developers of Beaufort-Hyde.
The mayor proposed the town purchase land to start up an industrial park that Belhaven, not a booster, would be able to control. He said the Beaufort County Industrial Park, jointly owned by Washington and the county, could be a model the town uses.
Boyette noted the county and the town could enter into a similar agreement by jointly purchasing a lot in the industrial park owned by CDBH, which would “help us facilitate other projects.”
Later in the meeting, the council entertained a motion from Councilman Steve Carawan that the town pursue Boyette’s proposal to jointly purchase some property at the industrial park.
The motion passed unanimously.
Thompson estimated the cost for a 5,000-square-foot building like the one he pitched for Belhaven’s economic-development purposes would be about $200,000.
If the town were to enter into a joint agreement with the county under the same formula as Washington — an agreement whereby the town would own 45 percent of the facility — the cost to Belhaven would be $90,000, not including the cost of the land on which to put the building.
O’Neal asked if the proposed building project could be financed.
Thompson suggested the cost be paid in full. If the town wanted to finance the building, he said, there may be some money to pay for the first year’s interest on the loan for the project. That money could come from the Beaufort County Committee of 100, which has money available that it could use to pay that first year’s interest.
Thompson said the council could call a break-out session to discuss its options further and give the EDC the direction the town would like to go during the next phase of county development.
Other development projects discussed at Monday’s meeting caused dissent among members of the council.
In 2004, a previous council approved entering into an agreement with a local developer to provide sewer capacity to a residential development on Pamlico Beach Road.
Rolf Blizzard, a developer with the project, presented that agreement to the council with a site plan for the property’s development. The 660 acres would be developed into 350 lots at full build out, Blizzard said. The town had agreed to sell the developers 90,000 gallons per day of capacity at the town’s sewage-treatment plant.
All the costs associated with building the infrastructure would be borne by the developer.
O’Neal said it is not wise for “a small town like us to run sewer 15 miles from town to a developer.”
The proposed subdivision is not in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and would not be subject to annexation.
Boyette favors the agreement, saying the plant can handle the extra sewage and that the impact fees the developer would incur would pay for the sewer system’s needed repairs to minimize inflow and infiltration, which allow the system to treat an extra 100,000 gallons per day.
His motion to approve the agreement received a majority of the votes.
Carawan opposed the motion.
The councilman noted that Bailey Point, across the street from the project, has 96 lots in it, and only one house has been built there — and it’s for sale. He warned the project could have the same fate, and the town won’t receive any surplus revenues if the residential development doesn’t draw residents.
Town Manager Tim Johnson said adding more customers to the sewer department’s base would lower costs for all customers.
O’Neal said that choosing to run 15 miles of sewer line out to the country is “playing favorites with a developer.”
For more on Monday’s meeting, including a look at the proposed budget Johnson will discuss with the council at Monday’s budget workshop, see future editions.