City council approves Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for downtown

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Dec. 5, 2007 - Sulphur Springs City Council members approved the second and final reading of an ordinance that will create a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which will generate money to help revitalize downtown.

Basically, it’s a zone encompassing the downtown area where the taxes from rising property values will be captured for reinvestment into downtown.

The money can be used for several projects already planned for the zone, including a central park; reconstructing economically important streets and sidewalks; grant programs to fund improvements to buildings, such as facades; inducements for development; and other ways.

In other business, council members approved on first reading an ordinance that would include the Central Commercial District as a zone in which a private beverage club could be located.

Several people, including members of the Downtown Business Alliance, spoke in favor of the measure, saying downtown businesses needed more tools to attract visitors to the area.

�We don�t want to see a ghost town downtown,� said Joy Wilson, echoing the comments of the other speakers.

Bob McCartney, pastor of First Baptist Church, urged the council to reject the measure.

�When I look at downtown, I don�t say the answer� is alcohol,� he said, pointing out there were three churches in close proximity to downtown. �I believe there are other options. I certainly want our businesses to prosper. I disagree that alcohol is the answer.�

One council member pointed out that the change would put downtown restaurants on equal footing with restaurants in other areas of the city. More than one expressed doubt that there would be any “big honky tonks going in.”

Another councilman pointed out that the change would be just one part of many efforts to revitalize the downtown area since the push to revamp the central business district began in 2005.

�If we didn�t have everything that�s developed in the past two years, I�d be a little worried about it. I think it would be subject to continue to be a low-rent district,� said Councilman Chris Brown. �But I think with everything that�s planned here, I think we are going to have upscale establishments. But when we look back in a few years and realize that things are turning out great, I hope we don�t attribute it all to alcohol.�

The measure passed with only one dissenting vote. 

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