Tax exemption plan could "jump start" Pass Christian development - - The News for South Mississippi

Tax exemption plan could "jump start" Pass Christian development


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors support a plan by Pass Christian to offer tax exemptions on new retail development. The idea is to jump start economic development by offering property tax breaks.

Developers who build a new retail project or make substantial improvements to an existing business will enjoy an exemption on property taxes.

Supervisors agreed to support the plan after hearing a plea from Pass Christian's mayor. Mayor Chipper McDermott told the board Hurricane Katrina was just the beginning of bad news for business in his town.

"At that time we had one problem, just rebuilding. Now we've got two. We've got oil problems. So the problems seem to multiply every time we turn around," Mayor McDermott told the board.

The mayor said a temporary tax break might be the answer to attract new development. The Pass Christian Board of Aldermen has already approved the economic incentive program, aimed at luring retail developers to the Pass.

"At least 50 percent of the square footage of the building being exempt must be dedicated toward some type of operation that will generate sales tax. So, you can't just build an office building and get the exemption," said Ken Austin, who is a realtor in Pass Christian.

The downtown is among the areas targeted for future development.

"You get downtown between Market and Davis right there, that's the most ideal spot for a business to go. You can't get into French Charley's, you can't get into Shaggy's any night they're open, Monday through whatever, cause it's on the water and water sells," the mayor told supervisors.

Given the high cost of insurance and other obstacles to development, such as the national recession, one supervisor said it would make good sense to see similar tax exemption programs in other cities across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"We've got to be aggressive. We've got to build back. We've got to look at ways. Insurance wasn't coming down for us, so how do we offset that so we can build back this gulf coast?" said Supervisor Windy Swetman.

"Retail begets retail, begets retail, begets retail. Once you get one, they start to build on each other. Then you can rebuild the downtown," said Austin.

Developments that qualify for the tax break would be reviewed on a "case by case" basis.

The tax exemption is for up to seven years on property tax only.  School taxes must still be paid.

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