Growth, Taxes on Tap at Retreat

BLYTHEWOOD (March 3, 2016) – The prospect of impending growth and serious consideration of a property tax to pay for that growth will be the focus of Town Council’s annual day-long retreat on Saturday at the Langford Nord House.

“This is a time we need to be looking at what services can be provided to a growing number of residents by the town or through intergovernmental agreements and what services those residents are expecting to receive,” Town Administrator Gary Parker told The Voice.

Parker will share various estimates at the retreat that show Blythewood’s population increasing to between 6,000 residents by 2025 and 12,000 by 2035. Parker said that growth likely won’t pay for itself.

“In most cases, growth in residential development costs more in services provided by the municipality than what the municipality receives in revenues generated by that development,” Parker said. “Data collected from studies across the nation have determined that, on average, residential development requires $1.16 in community services for every dollar of tax revenue it contributes. So all this residential development that we’re seeing here in Blythewood will require more government services while very likely providing revenues that will only partially fund those services.”

While a dozen or so of the town’s current services, including police, fire, EMS and election oversight, are now provided through low cost intergovernmental agreements with the County and water agreements with Winnsboro and the City of Columbia, Parker said the reality is that one day, with a much larger population, the town government may have to start providing some of its own services. Without a property tax, Council will not be able to fund a large enough budget to do this, Parker said. Parker sees the need for Council to initiate planning now to provide better revenue sources for the town in the not too distant future.

“What we’re soon to be in need of,” he said, “is annual revenues to fund a larger annual operating budget.”

Blythewood’s share of the Penny Tax revenue for road improvement projects will also be discussed. And Parker said he wants Town Council to give strong consideration to whether it truly wants to pursue what has been heralded in the Town’s Master Plan as a walkable Town Center District.

“A pedestrian-oriented gathering place, while a laudable goal if achievable, is definitely challenging in the Blythewood Road and McNulty Road areas,” Parker said. “Also, there are currently no inviting sidewalk storefronts along McNulty Road or Blythewood Road to ease a transition from what is now an automobile-oriented ‘downtown’ to a pedestrian-oriented one.”

Parker pointed out that, generally, a walkable town center has a mixed-use character to it with housing very close and somewhat mixed-in with commercial establishments.

“That certainly isn’t the case now,” Parker said.

He also noted that the town’s proposed walkability has been somewhat marginalized by changes the Town government has made in zoning since the Master Plan was adopted with the intent of accommodating and promoting walkability. Parker said he would talk about some ways Council could retrofit existing development into a more walkable community if that is what Council desires.

Also included on the agenda will be discussions about economic development, a vision for the town and an action plan.

“We’re going to be discussing some very important topics on Saturday, and the public is invited to have input,” Mayor J. Michael Ross told The Voice. “We will have a time for citizens to comment on agenda items at the beginning of the meeting and on discussion items at the end of the day.”

The retreat is scheduled from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., with a lunch break from 12 – 1. The Langford Nord House is located at the corner of Main Street and McNulty Road. For more information about the agenda, call Town Hall at 754-0105.