Toby Shaughnessy will have to wait at least another week before he finds out whether Allen County commissioners will sign on to a tax abatement for the Sam and Louie’s New York Pizzeria he and father Bob will build.
Groundbreaking for the specialty restaurant, on a plot near the east entrance to Walmart, was scheduled today.
Iola, Allen Community College and USD 257 have agreed to abate taxes for the restaurant through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. County commissioners are concerned about the proposed abatement’s legality.
County Counselor Alan Weber said Tuesday morning he had heard from some attorneys he questioned about the abatement, but preferred to take a little more time for research.
The restaurant site is outside Iola’s NRP zone, but enacting law — yet to be challenged by a court case, Weber noted — provides for exceptions for blighted buildings outside a zone, Weber said.
That has given him pause. The site is a vacant lot.
When asked the city’s reasoning for the exception, City Administrator Carl Slaugh, in one of his frequent visits to commission meetings, said Iola “just granted an exception,” and that “cities have liberally interpreted blighted areas.”
Weber said the city’s position was a concern: “The city made no finding of fact (for the site) as a blighted area.”
In his opinion, Weber continued, the city should have had a specific hearing for the exception “and gotten permission from other affected bodies” — the county, ACC and school district — before giving exception.
“It’s kind of like spot zoning, you run into all sorts of things,” he said.
The Shaughnessys said earlier they anticipated paying $10,000 to $12,000 a year in property taxes when the restaurant was fully taxed, which would occur at the end of 10 years in the program.
Within the program, taxes are refunded at a 95 percent rate for five years and then restored at 20 percent a year over the next five.
The Shaughnessys have argued the county, and other taxing bodies, are not out any money because the restaurant is not now on the tax rolls. The county would reap some benefit; it retains 5 percent of taxes paid each year as an administrative fee.
THE TREASURER’S office hours likely will change from 8 a.m. to 8:30, perhaps as early as June.
Treasurer Sharon Utley, who will relinquish the reins to Darolyn Maley in October, said new state requirements for verification associated with automobile titles and registration had burdened employees.
Adding an employee, even part time, didn’t fit her budget, Utley said, but she thinks permitting employees to spend their first 30 minutes each day on automobile paperwork without having to deal with customers would alleviate the crunch.
“We’ll let people know well ahead of time before we change office hours,” she said.
The office closes at 4:55 p.m. each day.
Utley also handed commissioners an update of sales tax collections that indicated the local economy has perked up a bit in the past year.
The 1 percent tax that supports landfill operations generated $933,336.62 for 2012, nearly $26,000 more than 2011’s total and almost $109,000 more than in 2010. It takes $2.6 million in sales to produce $26,000 in sales tax at 1 percent.
During its first 23 months in place through April, the half-cent sales tax to support the new Allen County Regional Hospital has raised $880,613.11.