Friday, October 9, 2009

More on the Ellwood Thompson's bill

The Washington Business Journal has more on Jim Graham's bill for Ellwood Thompson's grocery store: "Ellwood Thompson will get tax relief in the form of a 10-year property tax exemption to come to DC USA.

The legislation renews a similar bill passed in 2008 that was set to expire soon." The article adds that they're looking for financing for the store.

No word from Ellwood Thompson's, and the Richmond Times Dispatch last week quoted the owner as saying "the timing was just not right." Let's hope the bill helps!

4 comments:

MandarinZazz said...

DC selling out it's citizens for corporate interests...what else is new.

How about tax relief for DC residents, or increase benefits to the working poor?

The AMT said...

@MandarinZazz - how is trying to land a grocer and employer "selling out" the citizens here? It's a property tax exemption literally every grocery store in the city enjoys - this extends it to Ellwood (who rents space, as opposed to owning the land) as well. It's also not spending, it's lowering a tax rate (effectively) in order to spur private investment. It costs the city nothing (because they aren't deriving revenue from Ellwood's not being here, either). That is to say, it's not the same as increasing tax breaks or benefits, which are both effectively expenditures; instead, it's more like lowering a financial hurdle for a new small business which neighborhood locals are begging for - literally in some cases.

MandarinZazz said...

@AMT,

If every grocery gets this deal then why does Jim Graham need to pass a special bill for Ellwood Thompson and make a press announcement?

It costs the city nothing, but if we got a tenant to pay standard rate, DC would save money and lower tax rates for citizens.

I just feel like Ellwood is just messing around with us, put some money down, or let's get a business that would move in, and maybe pay standard tax rates (no special bills or press announcements).

What if we lowered the tax rate for new DC residents? It would be pretty unfair to current residents, but it would "cost us nothing"

The AMT said...

Zazz, your analogies don't fit.

There's currently nobody in the space at DC USA. And there are vacant spots across the street at Highland Park as well. And up 14th, and down 14th, and in nearly every commercial corridor. The problem is that no businesses are opening up. Elwood Thompson's already had this benefit (the City Council passed it last year, but it was expiring), and they would be moving in but for their financing falling through when the credit market tanked. The owner has been nothing but forthright with the public from the beginning - he seems to be one of the good guys, honestly.

As far as new residents, it's a completely different issue - first, the city isn't having trouble bringing new people in (city population is increasing). Besides, new residents don't provide sales taxes and payroll taxes and income taxes to the city - at least not at the level of an employer/retailer. Moreover, the federal government does give a tax benefit to new residents who buy their homes, if they are first-time home-buyers, which is exactly the kind of unfairness I think you mean.

To answer your question on why ET's needs special legislation to get the same exemption other grocers currently enjoy: I think the original language was targeted at the big-time stores (Giant, Safeway, HT, even Whole Foods), which typically own the land they build on, and it didn't cover grocers who rent their space. The 2008 bill and the current iteration clarify the language to apply to renters like ET's.