Hillsborough County Commission to rework incentives

The county delays plans to pay transportation fees for two warehouse projects.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said he had changed his mind and would not support paying transportation incentives for two warehouse projects.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said he had changed his mind and would not support paying transportation incentives for two warehouse projects.
Published June 17, 2020|Updated June 17, 2020

TAMPA — Two weeks ago, Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White supported a plan to offer transportation incentives to a pair of warehouse developments projected to create 117 jobs at two locations.

But, one project never came to a commission vote and White sought to resurrect the second one after it failed on a 3-3 tie.

Wednesday, however, he announced he had changed his mind and no longer would vote to pay $650,000 worth of transportation incentives for the two companies.

White said he wanted the ordinance governing incentives tweaked “to make sure there aren’t any unintended loopholes that would in any way allow this to become a corporate welfare program.‘'

The larger of the projects is for an Atlanta developer planning to build a nearly 500,000-square-foot warehouse center for a national home improvement distributor. The developer, Seefried, previously developed three warehouses for Home Dept.

County documents show Seefried has a $9.6 million purchase agreement for 62 acres and plans to invest $46.4 million to build the distribution warehouse, plus $7 million worth of equipment like racks and conveyors. The county said the project is expected to result in $577,000 in new property tax payments annually to the county and other taxing authorities.

Related: Home improvement warehouse planned for Hillsborough

But the location, at the southeast intersection of Big Bend Road and U.S. 41, and the $438,000 buy down of the county transportation fees owed by the developer, didn’t sit well with some commissioners nor some members of the public. They wondered why the county would help finance growth in an already traffic-choked area.

“The area is a dumpster fire and if you vote for this you will be adding fuel to that fire, ‘’ Noelle Licor, a south Hillsborough community activist, told commissioners Wednesday morning.

But, Steve Morey, senior vice president of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, said the buy-down program is imperative to aid industrial recruiting and business expansion in Hillsborough County.

The county’s 2016 ordinance allows the county to provide up to 75 percent of the transportation impact fees — now called mobility fees — a new development would be responsible for under normal circumstances.

Two weeks ago, the commission didn’t vote on the Seefried proposal after failing to approve a smaller incentive for Pinebrooke Park of Commerce. It plans 100,167 square feet of warehouse/office space in three buildings on Tech Boulevard in Tampa. The company already owns the 10.37-acre site and said it will target small companies requiring lease space of 3,600 to 30,000 square feet. It is projected to add 75 new jobs, and make a $6 million capital investment..

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But Commissioners Mariella Smith, Pat Kemp and Kimberly Overman voted against the incentive that ended up in a 3-3 deadlock with Commissioner Ken Hagan absent. Smith later questioned the wisdom of the ordinance in its current form.

Related: Commissioner wants developers to shoulder bigger share of impact fee payments

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Hagan told the Tampa Bay Times he would support both incentive packages.

“Our investment is repaid within three to five 5 years which is virtually unheard of in the incentive world,’’ he said.

But, Wednesday he agreed with the rest of the commission to again defer the incentive proposals and to schedule a workshop on rewriting the incentive ordinance.

Kemp said the county should reconsider offering incentives to warehouse projects, particularly in light of pressing transportation needs around the county.

“I think the county has liabilities, not assets,‘' Kemp said. “To me, it strikes me as funny money.‘'