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Reinvestment Zone, 2 Rezoning Items Receive Council Approval

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Two rezoning items and a reinvestment zone and tax incentive agreement for a new business were among the items receiving approval from Sulphur Springs City Council, during the regular council meeting conducted Oct. 6 on Zoom and streamed to Youtube for public viewing.

My Perfect Pet Tax Incentives

The City Council was asked by the Economic Development Corporation to consider designating Lot 6 at Pioneer Business park as an industrial reinvestment zone for My Perfect Pet.

My Perfect Pet logo

Karen Neola has moved her frozen pet food business from California in Sulphur Springs, a more central location from which to ship her specialty a gourmet pet food product to sellers across the country.

Neola officially broke ground for the project on July 31, 2019. My Perfect Pet’s 19,000 square foot facility in Sulphur Springs is now complete to USDA standards for production of human grade frozen pet food. The project is a $2.5 million investment. Neola said the business is slated to begin its first production shift Wednesday at 9 a.m.

One of the incentives offered to Neola for the relocation was a tax abatement from the hospital district. The hospital district does not have the legal authority to create a reinvestment zone, but the City Council does. The proposed Ordinance No. 2774 would establish a geographic boundary of an area where a taxing entity can offer a tax incentive. The reinvestment zone doesn’t create a tax abatement with the city, but would allow the hospital district to consider a tax abatement for My Perfect Pet, according to Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Feagley.

She said a lot of communities are competing for small businesses. She is glad to be one of them and looks forward to growing and thriving in her new community — Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County. The city and county are attractive to small businesses, in helping them to get where they want to be, Neola said.

According to the information provided to the City Council Tuesday night, Sulphur Springs was one of four communities in Northeast Texas that competed for the business. The tax incentives were what resulted in the business’ relocation to Sulphur Springs.

The Council approved on first reading, Ordinance No. 2774 establishing Lot 6 of Pioneer Business Park as an industrial re-investment zone.

The City Council then approved a resolution approving a 380 agreement with My Perfect Pet, which EDC Executive Director Roger Feagley said follows the current guidelines established for such agreements. This would allow the city to reimburse the property tax for the business in the agreed upon amount per the established tax schedule, after the stipulated requirements are presented to the city. The resolution authorizes the city manager to enter into the agreement for the economic development project.

The cost would be 55 percent of the taxes over the 10 years of the agreement. At the current tax rate, the total taxes due on the property would be $110,000 over 10 years. The company would be reimbursed $60,500 over 10 years, according to the 380 resolution proposal presented at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Rezoning of Old Mine Property

The City Council also gave unanimous approval of Ordinance No. 2775, which would rezone the city-owned old Luminant/Thermo mine property to heavy industrial.

Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski explained that when the city annexed the old mine property into the city limits on March 3, the property was not zoned. The next step toward development of the property is to zone it to allow for future use. The heavy industrial designation keeps with the previous use of the property as a coal mine, Niewiadomski explained.

Old mine property annexed into the Sulphur Springs city limits

Officially giving the property a heavy industrial zoning designation would provide more flexibility in development opportunities for the site. It would allow the EDC to make investments in the property to help attract major employers and industry to portions of the mine suitable for development, according to Niewiadomski. That would increase the tax base for the city, which could help fund other necessary infrastructure repairs and upgrades

City staff sent 102 certified letters to surrounding county property owners within 200 feet of the former coal mine. The city received one written response in favor of the zoning change, 18 written and one verbal response opposed to the zoning change, and two undecided written responses. A petition started on received 214 signatures in opposition of the zoning change, including from people nationwide.

Concerns expressed in the letters, during a public hearing Sept. 21 during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting and via the online petition included a desire to maintain quiet country living, concern for wildlife, noise, traffic and the impact of heavy industry on nearby property values. Some expressed displeasure that property they understood had been gifted to the city on the condition it would become a park would be used for industry. Some of these concerns were addressed by city staff during a public hearing held during the Sept. 21 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The P&Z Commission at that time approved the request for rezoning of the mine, recommending it to the City Council.

City Council members asked whether fencing would be required for any development within a certain distance of residential properties. The city manager noted that would be addressed in a platting process at a later date.

The City Council approved on first reading Ordinance No. 2775 rezoning the former mine property as heavy industrial.

Rezoning of Spence-Fisher Street Corner

Kenny Dority of Paris asked the city to consider rezoning a 10.84-acre tract of property at the corner of Spence and Fisher Streets from heavy commercial to single family. This would allow for the development of housing either duplexes or town home type structures.

The property would have to be “downzoned” to allow it to be used for residential use. The property is surrounded by a mix of zoning designations, heavy commercial to the east, light commercial to the south, single family and multi-family to the west, and single family and two family to the north.

10.84-acre tract at Spence and Fisher Streets, site of a proposed housing project

Forty letters were sent to adjacent properties. They received five responses in favor of the request and 2 opposed to it, Niewiadomski told the Planning and Zoning Commission when the matter was first presented last month. Concerns expressed at that time were for what it’d do for nearby property values, the use of spot zoning, inconsistent zoning in the area and whether it would result in neighborhood decline. The zoning change would only affect the Spence-Fisher Street corner property, not other nearby property, Niewiadomski noted.

Dority told the P&Z Commission that he’s been in banking/ real estate for 20 years, and has built homes in Broken Bow and Paris. If they go with a townhouse style it’d be very high-end construction with granite counter tops, high ceilings. They’d be about $125 per square foot homes, duplexes or subdivided into townhomes. He said the feasibility of which would be worked out once the zoning is approved. He said the the homes built in Paris “rent well and match the surrounding area nicely.”

If duplexes are constructed, some would have a garage. They’d likely be either a modern farm house or modern cabin style, which typically “have very good curb appeal to them,” Dority told the P&Z Commission. Dority said he would looking at a total investment of $8 million in the 36 lots.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the zoning change for the Spence-Fisher Street corner.

The rezoning, Niewiadomski noted would only apply to the 10.8-acres of property. Adjacent property owners would keep the same zoning rights.

The City Council approved the on first reading Ordinance No. 2776, which would rezoning property at the corner of Spence and Fisher Streets from heavy commercial to single family attached.

Screen capture from the Oct. 6, 2020 Sulphur Springs City Council meeting conducted on Zoom conferencing and streamed for pubic viewing on Youtube.

Author: Faith Huffman

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