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By Carmen Ensinger
Up to now, the property tax rebate program offered to residents purchasing property within the city of Winchester’s TIF district has been pretty open, but thanks to an issue that arose at the August council meeting, an ordinance is now in place with stipulations regarding the tax rebate program.
Last month, Molly Taylor approached the council about a tax rebate on a business she is starting called Elite Fitness and Health. It is the third business that she and her husband will have in the city of Winchester. They also own the gym and the seed company on the edge of town.
The issue was tabled last month and both Molly and her husband Brian were at the Oct. 6 council meeting to once again ask the council for the tax rebate on the building that will house the new business.
Mayor Rex McIntire said he wanted to make one thing clear.
“Molly, when you were here last month, I said that I don’t want this to be personal, and it is not,” he said. “This tax rebate program is an incentive program to give an incentive to people to start a business or build a home. It eases the burden on them for the first couple of years and helps the city too so it is a win-win situation. The only problem I had with it last month is that when people wanted the tax rebate, they came to the city before they wanted to do the project. That was where I had the problem, because we have to treat everyone the same and treat them equally.”
The Taylor’s were already well into the construction of their new business. In fact, the grand opening of Elite Fitness and Wellness is scheduled for Oct. 15.
Brian Taylor was not at the August meeting with his wife, Molly, but was clearly upset that that the council didn’t agree to the tax abatement as they did when he started his seed company.
“This would be our third business in Winchester and I am ready to build a second building at my seed company,” he said. “This is pretty frustrating for us. I can build this second building somewhere else, but I would like to keep it here in town. I’m just telling you there is a little frustration here. Her business is going to bring people from up to 50 miles away. If we are a city promoting business, I don’t know why you would even think twice.”
McIntire said he is tickled to death that Molly is opening her business and even more tickled that Brian is planning on expanding his seed business. He then turned it over to City Attorney John Paul Coonrod to explain how the program has worked up to now.
“Up to now, the city has ruled on a case by case basis – we haven’t, to date, had a written policy because we wanted flexibility,” Coonrod said. “But, as we have just seen, it can lead to some ambiguity as to what is and isn’t allowed. So, today, the council has set out a dividing line as to what is and isn’t allowed.”
The city of Winchester shall, for successful applicants rebate real estate taxes upon property located within the TIF district upon written request and following submission to the city of sa. thetisfactory proof of actual completion of improvements and/or completion of renovations to said property valued at a minimum of $25,000 for a period of two years.
Property owners shall submit and application on a form to be provided by the city prior to substantial commencement of the planned renovations and/or improvements to property listed in the application. The city reserves the right to approve or deny any application, in whole or in part, in conformity with the objectives of the TIF Redevelopment Plan of the city.
McIntire proposed, and the council agreed, that since the city did not have an ordinance in place when the Taylor’s first came to them, that they agree to pay the rebate on Molly’s building.
“But once we have the policy firmly established, then we have to adhere to it from here on out,” he said. “But since we dropped the ball on it, I feel we should okay it.”
The council unanimously passed the ordinance.