10/19/11 — DGDC to assist business start-ups

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DGDC to assist business start-ups

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 19, 2011 1:46 PM

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. will take a closer look at the businesses receiving its incentive grants, the organization's director told Goldsboro City Council Monday.

The program, which awards new businesses downtown who qualify with $400 per month for one year to go toward expenses, will now involve the DGDC economic restructuring committee having a more active role in decisions, Director Julie Thompson said. Members will be assigned to specific applicants following a preapplication process and will examine each entrepreneur's business plan more carefully, as well as follow the business for 18 months following its opening. The new process is intended to provide more support for the new businesses during the most trying parts of their first two years.

The shifts in the program didn't entail many concrete changes, Ms. Thompson said Tuesday, and one requirement to qualify hasn't changed since the beginning of the program: all applicants must be for-profit businesses.

Ms. Thompson said the intent of the requirement is to recruit retail businesses downtown.

"Where we're weakest is our retail sector," she said, adding that the idea of the grant, which, this year, comes completely from funds out of the municipal service district tax fund, was for property owners to pay taxes into the program as they benefited from it -- something not required of some non-profits like churches.

DGDC, a 501c3 non-profit, will pay property taxes when it moves into its new office on John Street, but a 401c3 non-profit, like the Arts Council of Wayne County which recently relocated downtown, doesn't.

So why was the Arts Council awarded a business incentive grant? Ms. Thompson said the decision was made by the economic restructuring committee that the Arts Council's Arts Market fit into downtown's economic plan, bringing retail downtown as the grant is intended.

"Where the Arts Council is unique is that there's the Arts Market component, so there is a component that's retail," Ms. Thompson explained. "Our committee decided to use its discretion."

Another factor was downtown's application for the Main Street Solutions Fund, a $200,000 grant that the Arts Council would benefit from in their move downtown. Ms. Thompson said to be better qualified for the grant, the city had to demonstrate a local government financial investment into the project.

The grant was the "icing on the cake," Arts Council Director Sarah Merritt, who also serves on the DGDC Board of Directors, said in June, although it wasn't the only factor. The move downtown was contingent upon the city's purchase of the Arts Council's former building on East Ash Street, as well.

Also speaking at the work session was the head of the city's parks department, Scott Barnard.

Barnard discussed what he called his department's naming issue.

On signs, stationery and otherwise, his department was referred to both as Parks and Recreation and as Recreation and Parks.

As he stood in front of Goldsboro City Council Monday night during its work session, he asked for a solution to the naming dispute.

"How is it listed in the code?" one council member asked, hoping to quickly solve the problem.

"It's listed both ways," City Clerk Melissa Brewer told the council.

Because of the website and departmental preference, council decided to go with Parks and Recreation and end the misnomer mess.

In other business at the meeting Monday, the council received a list of potential citizen nominees to the city's committee for the continued development of its land use plan.

The city also approved the appropriation of funds for the demolition of a dilapidated building on North William Street.

The building at 1706 N. William St. was condemned at council's March 17, 2005 meeting and the asbestos was removed in December 2005, although the property owner never paid for it. He also owes $700 in back taxes on the property and has asked for more time to demolish the structure on his own.

Stephen Allen and Roderick Davis were caught up in a lawsuit in the mid-2000s when the city first wanted it demolished, so they had no time limit as to how long the two had to take the building down.

But seven years later, the city has determined the owner has 30 days until the city's Public Works department takes it down and sends a bill to the owner for the cleanup.

The city appropriated $20,000 for the demolition of the building from the general fund through an ordinance Monday night and will seek to get reimbursed by the owner in the future, although the city could place a lien on the property if payment isn't received.

The council approved the scheduling of three contiguous annexation public hearings for the next joint meeting of the council and Planning Commission, which will be held Nov. 21.

The city also announced Tuesday that the Planning Commission's meeting, originally scheduled for Oct. 31, will be held Oct. 24 instead in the Council Chambers.