Public Hearings - Enterprise Zone Application
PUBLIC HEARING - March 29, 2016
Enterprise Zone Application
March 29, 2016
A public hearing was held today at 6:11 p.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, 400 High Street, Chestertown, MD, for the purpose of discussing the DRAFT Chestertown Kent County Enterprise Zone Application.
County Commissioners, William W. Pickrum, Ronald H. Fithian and William A. Short were in attendance as well as Shelley Herman, County Administrator and Jamie Williams, Coordinator, Economic Development. Chestertown Town Council Members, Liz Gross, Linda Kuiper, Sam Shoge, and Marty Stetson as well as Kay MacIntosh, Economic Development and Marketing Coordinator, were also in attendance.
Commissioner Pickrum read the notice of public hearing into record and stated that copies of the DRAFT Chestertown Kent County Enterprise Zone Application were made available to the public at the following locations: the County’s website at http://www.kentcounty.com/economic -development, the Economic Development Office, 400 High Street, Chestertown and at the Town of Chestertown, 118 North Cross Street, Chestertown, MD.
Commissioner Pickrum read the rules for the public hearing into record. Ms. Williams also requested the audience to sign the attendance sheet which will be included with the application to the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Ms. Williams gave an overview of the Enterprise Zone Designation. The Enterprise Zone program provides real property tax credits for businesses and state income tax credits for employees located in a Maryland Enterprise Zone in return for job creation and investments. Because there are properties in parts of the County and the Town in the designated Enterprise Zone, the County and Town must jointly apply for the Enterprise Zone designation. Ms. Williams discussed the requirements for an Enterprise Zone designation. Based on recent averages, Kent County and the Town of Chestertown would qualify based on poverty level incomes at least 1.25 times the national average. The Town and County must act quickly, timing is crucial to the application. Creating an Enterprise Zone does not change or otherwise affect local zoning control, regulations, and ordinances. Ms. Williams stated that an Enterprise Zone program is a valuable incentive to promote job creation and capital investment within the existing business community and is an essential tool to position Kent County to compete with surrounding jurisdictions to attract new businesses to our communities. Commissioner Pickrum stated that he believes the Enterprise Zone will make a more “level playing field” for Kent County against the surrounding jurisdictions.
Commissioner Short inquired as to whether or not this program goes far enough and whether or not other municipalities can be captured. Ms. Williams stated that at this time no, due to the criteria requirements to qualify as an Enterprise Zone. Ms. Williams will look at the demographics in the future.
Commissioner Pickrum invited comments and questions from the audience.
Jim Luff, Chair, Economic Development Commission, testified that the Commission wholeheartedly supports the application. The Enterprise Zone designation will attract businesses and allow current businesses to expand. Mr. Luff described the Enterprise Zone as a “tool in the toolbox” in order to expand the economy.
Paula Reeder, Associate Broker, Champion Realty, stated that other counties have taken advantage of these incentives to grow their economy. The Enterprise Zone designation has been very effective in Garrett County. Ms. Reeder encouraged the Town of Chestertown and the County to seek abilities to qualify other areas of the County for similar benefit.
Doug Sassi, Doug Sassi Pottery, spoke in support of the application and hopes that it will expand to Still Pond.
Margie Elsberg, Communications Coordinator, Save the Hospital Committee, spoke in support of the application and stated that she believes that once the hospital begins to grow and thrive that the designation will energize that growth.
Doris Mason, Executive Director, Upper Shore Regional Council, reiterated previous testimony in support of the application. The Enterprise Zone designation would put the Town and County in a position to attract new businesses and would allow local control of zoning to remain. Ms. Mason described the Enterprise Zone designation as a “window of opportunity” and that the Town and County should take advantage of the designation while it is able.
Commissioner Short stated that fifty percent of something is better than fifty percent of nothing and believes this will have a positive impact on Kent County.
Mr. Stetson stated that the Enterprise Zone designation would allow the Town and County to compete with surrounding counties. Ms. Kuiper commended Ms. Williams and Ms. MacIntosh and stated that they have been the biggest asset to this project.
Written comments will be accepted in the County Commissioners’ Office until Friday, April 1, 2016, at 12:00 p.m.
The hearing was taped for reference and the Commissioners adjourned the public hearing at 6:38 p.m.
Sondra M. Blackiston, Clerk
William W. Pickrum, President
The County Commissioners
of Kent County, Maryland