The public was a no-show at a Tuesday morning public hearing as Wayne County commissioners for the second time in 15 months approved $156,751.89 in tax credits for a downtown Goldsboro development project.

Commissioners first approved the tax credit in November 2017, but that time has kind of passed, County Manager Craig Honeycutt said.

“The project was kind of dormant for a while,” he said. “It is now moving forward, and since it is moving forward we felt like we needed to have another public hearing.”

The only person to speak during the brief public hearing was Julie Metz, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. director. She also spoke at the November 2017 public hearing.

Metz said she did not bring cake or presents like commissioners had received earlier in the meeting during an update on the first-year anniversary of the Maxwell Center.

“But what I do have is an $11 million private investment project for your consideration,” she said. “This project will affect six historic buildings in downtown, most of which have been vacant for decades and are in need of significant investment to put them back into productive use.

“Four are currently owned by the city. Total combined square footage is just under 70,000 square feet. The project also considers two vacant lots, turning them into parking spaces.”

Of the $11 million investment, approximately $8 million is for the buildings, she said.

Winston-Salem-based WNB Landlord, LCC, plans to use federal and state historic preservation credits to help pay for the $11 million project to rehabilitate the former First National Bank building and adjoining building. 

The project also includes the four buildings making up the county’s old Senior Center that the county gave the city, along with $60,000 to fix the roof.

The property addresses are 200/202 E. Walnut St.; 204 E. Walnut St.; 206 E. Walnut St.; 106 S. John St.; 135 W. Walnut St.; and 139 W. Walnut St.

The project will result in approximately 57 residential units downtown and will put back into use more than 12,000 square feet of first-floor commercial retail space for lease, Metz said.

The rental rates for the residential units will range from $695 to $1,200 depending on the square footage, she said.

“Just to give you some indicator of the economic impact that this project will have, in North Carolina every resident that lives in a downtown adds $9,000 a year in sales tax revenues,” she said. “So this project will affect probably about $600,000 in new revenues to downtown businesses each year.”

That does not include an increase in property tax revenues, Metz said.

The project also provides rooftop access to the city and county for broadband service.

Metz said nothing has changed about the project since she first spoke to commissioners about it in November 2017.

It has taken a while for attorneys for the county, city and developers to work out the contracts to the satisfaction of everyone involved, she said.

The county does not have the authority to refund taxes, so its grant will be based on county property taxes already paid by the county developer.

It is similar to the type of incentives the county provides for an industry.

The industry has to pay the tax before it receives the grant, which is always less than the full amount of taxes that the industry has paid.

County property taxes would be granted back to WNB Landlord, LCC, in decreasing amounts over a period of years.

That works out to a 90 percent return during the first five years; 75 percent in year six; 60 percent for year seven, 45 percent for year eight; 30 percent for year nine; and 15 percent in the 10th year.

“For my clarification and citizens who have asked questions, the only thing the county is going to have invested in this is the tax incentive. Correct?” Commissioner Wayne Aycock said. “There is no direct money flowing out of our fund balance or anything? It is just the tax incentive.”

That is correct, Honeycutt said.

“If you look at it, the valuation of those buildings now compared to what it will be, that even with the incentives we will be in the black,” he said.

Currently, the county collects $1,523 annually on the properties, Metz said. After the 10-year tax credit ends, the county will collect more than $23,000 annually on the properties, she said.

Construction could begin by late summer, Metz said.