RC approves tax abatement district

ROGERS CITY — New rules pertaining to Rogers City’s tax abatement policy were recently approved by the Rogers City City Council.

The adoption of the policy follows the council’s decision earlier this month to create a commercial redevelopment and rehabilitation district to help bolster economic development in the city’s downtown.

The district is located primarily along Third Street, stretching north to Bradley Highway and south to Friederich Street. It is also located on Erie Street, from Third Street nearly up to Fifth Street.

The outlier in the district is the property at 480 N. 2nd St., where a business called Sexy Shoes was once located.

Property owners in that district can apply to the City Council and the State Tax Commission to receive temporary tax cuts for eligible projects, such as improvements to the property or hiring additional employees.

City Manager Joe Hefele reminded council members that tax abatements are meant to take obsolete buildings or property and turn them into something of value to the community. He said the statutes were created to help spur development.

“You’re creating the abatements to basically cut them a break and cut their expenses some while they’re building a customer base,” he said.

He said tax abatements are not intended for business owners who are doing “maintenance,” such as paving a parking lot, working on their roof, upgrading heating and cooling systems, or replacing their windows.

The tax abatement policy stipulates the following:

∫ The proposed project must be located in the commercial redevelopment and rehabilitation district and fall within the scope of the Commercial Redevelopment Act or the Commercial Rehabilitation Act.

∫ The proposed project must be for a total investment of at least $100,000 and it must feature an investment in the building facade of at least $40,000, with a highly noticeable improvement of the facade.

∫ The proposed project must be consistent with the city’s goals, development priorities, master plan, and zoning codes, and must not create a hardship on public resources such as parking, or create a detriment to the local economy.

∫ The proposed project must have a nautical theme incorporated into its facade, which is required in the city’s zoning ordinance.

∫ The applicant will have to provide the city with preliminary architectural documents and cost estimates must be provided during the application process.

Although Councilman Larry Fuhrman ultimately cast a vote in support of the policy, he expressed frustrations that the way the city’s tax abatement policy is written excludes small business owners.

“We’ve tried in the past; we cannot depend on big projects coming in and saving Rogers City,” he said. “We need to get downtown filled back up, the buildings filled back up a little at a time, small things at a time and this is not addressing that in my opinion.”

Hefele reiterated that the program isn’t designed for maintenance and said the city has other programs to help small businesses. However, he did not provide details about those programs during the meeting.

He also told council members that the developers with The Brook, an assisted living facility planned for South Third Street, wanted a tax abatement, but there was no way to extend the rehabilitation or redevelopment districts to that location and that, ultimately, the state wouldn’t allow it.

The creation of the commercial redevelopment and rehabilitation district and adoption of the tax abatement policy is part of the city’s plan to achieve designation from the state as a Redevelopment Ready Community.