Well, the voters have spoken, and it’s not really a surprise what they said. Support the tax or oppose it, street chatter revealed what the outcome was likely to be. The proposed increase of a half cent to the county’s local option sales tax failed by a large margin.
Unfortunately, the appointees of the zoning board have also spoken. And they really should have kept their mouths shut.
During the Oct. 10 zoning board meeting, three of the nonelected appointees were hearing a case that would likely increase traffic on Woodbine Road if approved.
Traffic on Woodbine Road has been an issue for years. It is one of the few arterial roads in the county also owned by the county, and the needed widening of Woodbine falls to the county. And it has fallen to the wayside. It’s hefty $35 million price tag has been too much of a lift for the budget according to the staff and commissioners.
To tackle an item like that, the county would have needed to start setting aside funds little by little for more than a decade. But they didn’t. So, they hoped a sales tax would solve the ails of past poor decisions.
Jim Waite, Jeremy Reeder and Scott Kemp decided to sarcastically equate the sales tax’s failure at the polls as a thumbs up from voters that there are no problems with infrastructure. The exact exchange is printed in the front section of this newspaper.
The comments sum up to something like – you rejected the sales tax? Well, we will just approve all these increased density projects you did not want because clearly your no vote means there is no problem. And they went further to approve the rezoning out of what sounded like spite.
Tongue in cheek or not, the discussion and the remarks made were inappropriate. Period. Bullying voters from a seat of authority because they opposed a tax increase is not how democracy works.
The Zoning Board ought to be ashamed.
They are being called on to act with discernment and make hard choices to ensure healthy growth in the county. Denying an increased density on a property is not opposing growth. It is supporting smart, incremental growth.
And denying an increased tax does not translate to the assertion “everything is fine. We don’t have any big projects that need doing.”
This election was as much a referendum on the county’s perceived spending as it was about the sales tax.
The county commissioners finally seem to be hearing the resounding message we have heard on repeat in county meetings. No sales tax without impact fees. While the impact fees likely cannot generate revenues at the same pace a sales tax could, they are still a viable source of revenue.
The home builders’ association points to potential impacts to the cost of housing, saying an impact fee will push the dream of homeownership that much father from the reaches of families getting their start. We’d buy that argument more if there was some type of variety in price points of the homes being built in our community.
Reality is, affordable housing is not being built in our communities. And an impact fee is not going to change that.
Commissioners will be looking into this option in November. A lengthy study will be required per state law. Then the county needs to publish a plan for long term tackling of the essential projects that were on the sales tax list. How are you going to do what you need to do without that money?
As County Administrator Dan Schebler said, make those hard choices.
Once that’s done, maybe we can revisit the sales tax.
As seen in the Oct. 17 issue of Navarre Press.
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