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County backs incentives to go green

Staff Writer

Businesses that invest in energy-conserving, non-polluting commercial and industrial facilities may start getting a financial boost in Lincoln County.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal Monday for incentives for the construction of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) industrial and commercial office buildings.
County Manager George Wood said he wanted to make sure commissioners, if in agreement, adopted the proposal conceptually before a resolution, which will now be drafted and brought back at a later meeting, was prepared.
In a presentation by Kelly Atkins, director of the Planning and Inspections Department, and Principal Planner Randy Williams, they laid out the four classifications of LEED-designed buildings:

  • LEED Certified
  • LEED Silver
  • LEED Gold
  • LEED Platinum, with the latter the hardest to obtain

They also detailed how construction of LEED buildings involves an increase in construction costs, which then results in a greater building value.
Their proposal suggested providing a 10 percent rebate on the additional cost for construction over a two-year period, with an investment minimum of $2 million. Depending on the building’s classification, the increase in construction costs typically ranges from 0 to more than 5 percent.
Additionally, the valuation of a project will be based on the Tax Administration Department’s final assessed value of the building. A refund would not be provided until after the valuation and once the building has obtained its LEED certification.
Wood noted that the rebate would “fold in” like the current Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) incentives and basically follow the same system.
“We feel pretty strong this would be a very creative incentive,” Atkins said.
Atkins and Williams had previously presented the proposal to the LEDA Board of Directors, who then endorsed the incentive plan with a letter of support.
LEDA Chairman Tom Anderson specifically noted in the letter that with Lincoln County moving from a “Tier 2” to a “Tier 3” designation — the latter of which is reserved for the state’s 20 most prosperous counties and will result in the county receiving less state assistance in providing statewide economic incentives for this year — the county needs to look for innovative ways to remain competitive.
Commissioner George Arena, who is part of the appointed “green team” behind the initiatives, also cited the tier rankings as reason to find alternative ways to attract new industries. He noted that the proposed incentives would be “a creative way for Lincoln County to get noticed.”
Prior to the vote, Wood specified that the incentives would cover commercial offices but not retail buildings.
In other board action at Monday’s meeting:
Commissioners conducted a public hearing for a request to rezone three acres of property, located on the south side of Maybank Lane and about 1,000 feet west of June Bug Road in Howards Creek Township, from residential single-family to rural-residential.
The applicant plans to split the property off from a 14.3-acre tract, under the provisions for a family subdivision, and put in a double-wide manufactured home.
Owner Kimberly Starnes said, due to health problems, she needs her kids there to help out. Nearby residents spoke against the rezoning, saying the double-wide home would decrease their property values, and submitted a petition.
At its separate meeting Monday night, the Planning Board voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the request and will bring its recommendation before commissioners at their next meeting. A public hearing on a conditional-use permit for a proposed campground was postponed at the applicant’s request.
Commissioners unanimously approved a request from Howards Creek Volunteer Fire Department asking for a franchise for Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) Plus.
During approval of various vacancies and appointments, Commissioner Carrol Mitchem suggested doing away with the Board of Equalization and Review or having a commissioner serve on the board, but commissioners ultimately agreed it was better to keep the two separate.
Commissioners discussed and approved a request from Cleveland County to extend water lines into Lincoln County in two areas to serve customers with contaminated water and to work on an agreement between the two counties for the future.
Wood announced that Barry McKinnon, senior utility engineer with the county’s Public Works Department, has submitted his resignation and will work through the end of the month.

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