Front Royal eyes tourism zones to attract business

FRONT ROYAL – The town might soon give potential business more incentives to locate in Front Royal.

The Planning Commission endorsed a proposal Tuesday to create tourism zones in various parts of Front Royal. The proposed amendment to the town code would define the tourism zones as well as grant tax incentives and regulatory flexibility to certain qualifying developments.

Under the proposal, qualifying business owners could save some money by not having to pay the business/professional/occupational [BPOL] licenses tax. Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp noted that a business likely wouldn’t save a lot of money through the tax exemption. Information provided by Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden gave examples of estimated revenue certain types of businesses might pay in a year in BPOL taxes. Most small businesses would pay between $250 and $500 in BPOL taxes.

Camp told the panel the town could use the BPOL-tax incentive as a way to help market projects in the tourism zones, but the waiver would not serve as a major draw. Several members agreed.

“It’s not going to make or break or it’s not going to say ‘yes, I’m going to do it now,'” said Chairwoman Deborah Langfitt.

Commissioners voiced more support for another incentive that would allow a developer or business owner to finance the required utility connection fees over time rather than pay the entire cost up front.

The average commercial building requires 1-inch connections to water and sewer lines, Camp has said. The town charges $21,938 for a 1-inch connection to the sewer system and $8,816 to water service. A business that requires 12-inch connections to utilities pays more than $2 million in tap fees.

Under the proposal, the developer or business owner could finance the payment of the connection fees over 10 years at no interest.

“By doing this, we’re kind of creating an incentive package, which we can market,” Camp said.

The proposal calls for the creation of three, unique zones – downtown business, entrance corridor and community business. Zones would be located in various parts of town depending on the type. Eligible uses in all zones would include retail, dining, lodging and entertainment (excluding adult entertainment). The Downtown Business and Entrance Corridor zones would include culture and arts. Downtown and Community Business would include personal services and offices while the Downtown zone would include condominiums not located on the ground level.

Eligible land uses would qualify for tourism-zone incentives if the developer or business owner created at least one job and invested a minimum of $25,000 in new capital. The uses would need to conform to the Comprehensive Plan and comply with the town code.

The proposal calls for a 100 percent reduction in the BPOL tax for eligible land uses that fall into one of three categories based on the amount of money invested and jobs created. The exemption would not apply to existing businesses. Proprietors and property owners would not be exempt from paying meals, lodging, real estate or other taxes.

The commission plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed tourism zones and incentives on Jan. 21.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com