Some Residents Oppose Tax Increase to Fund American Tobacco Parking Decks
Posted June 6, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — The rebirth of the American Tobacco warehouse could give Durham a boost like it has not seen in years. Plans are to convert the warehouse into anoffice and retail development.
Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent company of WRAL-TV, will pay for a big portion of the project as long as thecityandcountybuild parking decks.
In order to do that, theCity Councilis looking at a one-cent property tax increase. It would be the first tax hike in six years.
At a meeting Monday, a half-dozen people spoke against the proposed 1-cent increase in the property tax to help pay for redevelopment project.
Some believe the tax hike would hurt people on fixed incomes and would only help a small portion of the city.
"We are wondering whether it's really an investment of corporate welfare," one resident told the council. "Understand the devastating impact that you will have on less fortunate persons at certain income levels."
Opposition included strongly worded comments from Lavonia Allison, chairwoman of the influential Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. She urged the council to find a way to pay for American Tobacco without raising taxes.
The American Tobacco project is expected to bring 4,500 jobs, an impact some say you cannot overlook.
"I find there's no alternative to do what we want to do," says Mayor Pro Tempore Howard Clement.
"We have a chance to change the way business is done and life is lived in Durham for the next 50 years," says City Council member Dan Hill.
"We're talking about reversing urban sprawl, we're talking about so many positives that will virtually impact everyone in this community that it's very short-sighted for people to say it will only benefit a few people," says Hill.
The finance committee is expected to vote on the tax increase Thursday. The final budget vote is scheduled for June 19.
The American Tobacco project will cost a total of $200 million.
The city and county are being asked to contribute $40 million for parking. Capitol Broadcasting will cover the rest of the expenses.
Duke Universityhas already signed on to lease space in the renovated building.