Monday, October 17, 2011

The Facade Grant Program

The Union County Weekly has an article on the new Facade Grant program that was recently approved by the town board. This grant program makes $7500 available to certain favorably-located area businesses interested in approving their façades, essentially subsidizing exterior repairs or renewal of favorably situated private property with taxpayer money.

Here's Brian Carlton's description:
The project is a scaled down and reworked version of the historic district proposal that failed earlier this year. By turning it into a grant program, the council made it a voluntary process this time around, so only those interested would be impacted. The project sets aside $7,500 from the town’s general fund, to be used as grant funding. If a business or property owner wants to restore his facility to the way it originally looked, he or she can apply to the Waxhaw Historic Preservation Committee. If the application is approved, the committee can authorize different amounts, up to $7,500 towards the restoration. To qualify, the restoration has to cost a minimum of $250.
I am not sure I agree with this description since the failed historic district proposal would've been imposed on homeowners with no subsidization of repairs; it just would've dictated what changes or repairs could be made to homes and business falling within the specified district. If I'm not mistaken, the only taxpayer money used for this program would be the salaries of the bureaucrats that maintain it.

The Facade Grant program, however, takes taxpayer money and uses it help pay for refurbishments to accepted applicants. I'm not sure money should be taken from taxpayers and doled out to individuals to improve the look of their personal property.

Brett Diller, Erin Kirkpatrick, and Martin Lane obviously feel differently as they provided the necessary three votes to pass this program. On the other hand, Phillip Gregory and Joyce Blythe voted against it, but hold back warm and fuzzies for them quite yet if saving taxpayer money is your thing.

The article seems to suggest Phillip Gregory and Joyce Blythe didn't vote against it because of the transfer of taxpayer money to a select few, but because they weren't entirely comfortable with the Waxhaw Historic Preservation Committee (WHPC) running the program. Personally, I have more of an issue with the fact taxpayer money will be subsidizing select individuals rather than who will be overseeing the program. Although I suppose the WHPC might be more inclined to favor historic properties, but that remains to be seen.

In the article, Erin Kirkpatrick is quoted as follows:
“It’s an investment in our economic development,” Waxhaw council member Erin Kirkpatrick said. “It’s money we’re investing to bring people to our downtown corridor.”
I honestly don't see how improving the exterior of buildings downtown will more than nominally improve economic development in Waxhaw. Will a handful of improved façades downtown make a significant impact in how much money is spent in downtown Waxhaw? Is there evidence to suggest it will?

Maybe offering up much more than $7500 will attract more people (and Brenda Stewart's comment beneath the article suggests they're already looking to expand the program before the ink is even dry), but a more significant economic development would be having shops that regular folks can shop at. I realize that's beyond the scope of the town board (or so I would hope), but I consider myself a regular guy and besides the restaurants, there are very few shops in downtown Waxhaw I would need to set foot in.

Like the Waxhaw Fresh Market before it, the loss of Southport Gifts removes another store I'd pop into periodically. Where is one to shop in Waxhaw for gifts and knick-knacks besides antique shops? Stewart's Gallery comes to mind, but my ventures in there have been limited as I've normally watched the kids outside (so they don't break anything) while my wife looks around.

1 comment:

Polly Stroud said...

There are lots of places in Waxhaw for small gifts. Bella Dimora, Studio Forma, Sweet Repeats sell decorative watches and jewelry, The Bead Shop, Emores, Lowes, CVS and Walgreens, Gift Certificates for Mani/Pedi at any of the nail salons, for Food Lion or the Teeter or for dinner at one of the many restaurants in Town. Just need to be creative. I also think the Grant program is a good idea. I have to pay taxes for public school and haven't had children in school for years. No one is giving us a tax break.