City Council members approved the creation of a tax reinvestment zone for downtown, although one councilman expressed disapproval for the plan to rebuild the central business district.
The panel ultimately approved the creation of Tax Increment Financing Reinvestment Zone #1, which will use increased tax revenue created by rising property values to fund downtown improvements.
But one councilman doubts the idea will work.
“This will not produce the dreamed about result until or unless we achieve a population of 30,000-plus,” Councilman Charles Oxford said, arguing the extension of State Highway 11 on the south side of town would aid or ensure “the delay in achieving the purposes and hopes for this plan.”
He also said putting a four-way stop sign at Houston and Church streets would also hurt downtown.
“We already have an impossible situation with the post office ... and a nightmare at Jefferson and Church,” Oxford said. “Adding one more nightmare to two-way traffic around the square and back-in parking ... you can plan the funeral for the failure of this plan.”
Sulphur Springs attorney Phil Smith also spoke against the plan, saying there wasn’t enough room for parking in the original plan, and that traffic already makes it hard to get around the square.
Councilman Clay Walker disagreed in part, saying he never has trouble driving around the square, but added, “I’ve had a hard time finding a parking spot.”
While Walker agreed a redeveloped downtown will need more parking spaces, he also indicated support for other aspects of the revitalization plan and reinvestment zone.
“Successful downtown areas ... become a destination for people outside the community,” Walker said. “When I talk to people around the country, they don’t say how good our Lowe’s or Wal-Mart looks, but they say something about the courthouse every time. If we can revive our downtown area, that’s what people coming here will remember.”
Councilman Chris Brown, who is also a Realtor, was adamant in his support for the downtown plans.
“I feel like this is a very well thought-out plan, and I think it’s real important we put this into downtown,” he said. I get calls from people looking to lease space on Broadway. If we revitalize downtown, we can bring traffic downtown, and we’ll have people that want to lease space there. We’ve got growth that we cannot capture because the space isn’t there. Downtown has been a low-rent district. If we take it out of that, we’re going to see success down there.”
The vote to approve the TIF zone passed with only Oxford voting against it.
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