Candidates banter over property tax, vendors, growth, less restrictive zoning

BLYTHEWOOD – This year’s Town Council debate was more entertaining than those in the past – a little fun, a little banter. The five questions presented by the Chamber were long and convoluted. Question 3 was 73 words long.

Candidates for Town Council, from left, Bryan Franklin, Michelle Kiedrowski, Larry Griffin and Donald Brock, listen to the first question from moderator Mike Switzer, Executive Director of the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce. | Photo: Barbara Ball

A priority for the Chamber, which has received $63,000 from the Town in the last year and a half, was what priority the candidates would give to a close relationship between the town government and the Chamber.

The short question: What is your current opinion of the relationship between the town government and the business community which is the town’s primary source of revenue?

Michelle Kiedrowski said more priority must be given to bringing in more hospitality and accommodation taxes as a financial resource, and the Town should market itself to the kind of business the town needs.

Larry Griffin suggested the town needs to bring in the right businesses that will generate income for the town.

Donald Brock said the nu

mber one goal of the Chamber should be to help the businesses that are here survive. He suggested creating sources of revenue other than business-generated revenue – like a recreation department and sports complex.

Bryan Franklin agreed that a sports complex would be a good revenue source, but Franklin said the town must first look at what it needs to spend money on and then ask how to generate that income.

The short question: Are you open to a tax millage and/or a bond referendum for the purpose of accelerating the pace of street improvements?

All the candidates pretty much skipped the street improvements part of the question and got right down to the tax millage/bond referendum issue.

Larry Griffin said he is not opposed to a millage, but it has to be done with caution. If a tax would be beneficial and help us eliminate our traffic problems, I’m for it.

Donald Brock: Millage is a bad thing when it is wasted. He might like to see bonds or a property tax used to create a recreation center or to diversify events and attractions in Blythewood. The town has to give serious thought to establishing a stable revenue stream. I’m not opposed to a property tax, but I would use caution.

Bryan Franklin: I would be open to a referendum of the people. If the majority of the people want to impose a millage, I would not be opposed to it.

Michelle Kiedrowski: I agree. A millage needs to be considered only when the town is ready. There are benefits, but the citizens have to be involved.

The short question: How do you feel about Council’s decision to reduce design restrictions for businesses locating on Blythewood Road between 1-77 and Main Street, making it easier for more fast-food restaurants to locate there?

As Planning Commissioners, Brock, Franklin and Kiedrowski did not recommend easing the design restrictions. They remained united in their opposition during the debate, noting that they felt it was important to follow the master plan to improve the town. Brock said businesses coming in must not be allowed to hold the purse over our head and say, we’ll move into the town, but we are going to operate by our rules, not yours.

Griffin, on the other hand, voted for the easing of the restrictions. Griffin said the master plan should be changed when needed to meet the needs of growth.

The short question: How do you feel about mobile/itinerant vendors doing business in Blythewood?

Michelle Kiedrowski: When itinerate merchants come in and stay, they take business away from our local businesses. I’m not against vendors; vendors effect how Blythewood looks. I’m not a fan of them sitting overnight.

Larry Griffin: Some merchants like it and some don’t, so we need to have an ordinance to abide by. If we change the ordinance we have to be fair. What we do for one, we have to do for all.

Donald Brock: Itinerant merchants don’t have the same overhead and responsibility as a brick and mortar business. Perfect example is Grace Coffee and Bloomin’ Bean Coffee Shop.  I’m sure the monthly expenses for Bloomin’ Bean exceed those of Grace Coffee. Food Trucks should come for events and then leave. That’s the nature of an itinerant merchant. They must not interfere with the businesses that are here. We need to hear from and fight for the local businesses, the ones in the trenches who provide the town’s revenue.

Bryan Franklin: Fairness is the word, but it has to be fair for the businesses that are already here.

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