Lowe's wants to build store in Jefferson county

December 05, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Lowe's Home Centers wants to build a new store along U.S. 340 east of Charles Town and officials with the company want the Jefferson County Commission to either give them a $500,000 grant or $1 million in tax breaks to help build the store, which could cost up to $16 million, an official with the company said Thursday.

Arnold Arrowood, a private site consultant for Lowe's, appeared before the commission Thursday night to present the proposal to them.

The commissioners expressed concern over the proposal, not only because of the money Lowe's is asking for, but because the company is asking the county to speed up the approval process for the proposed store.

Lowe's officials want the permit process to last no more than two weeks.

Commissioner Al Hooper told Arrowood that the commissioners cannot tell the Jefferson County Planning Commission how to act on a project because it is a separate body. The only involvement the commissioners have with the planning commission's business is when the commissioners appoint people to the planning commission, Hooper said.


"We can't tell them, 'Hey, push this through,''' Hooper told Arrowood.

The commissioners decided to table the proposal until they can study it more closely.

Lowe's is negotiating for a piece of land near Wal-Mart along U.S. 340 to build a store, Arrowood said. The company usually needs 10 to 15 acres for a store, Arrowood said.

Lowe's is asking for a $500,000 grant or $1 million in tax breaks through what is called tax increment financing, Arrowood said.

Tax increment financing revolves around the increased taxes that would be paid to the county once the store is built, Arrowood said. Under a tax increment financing arrangement, a certain amount of increased taxes that Lowe's would be paying to the county would be kept by the company, Arrowood said.

For example, if taxes on the property increased $500,000 per year with the new store, perhaps a deal could be worked out where $100,000 goes back to Lowe's, Arrowood said. Normally, such arrangements last for about 10 years, at which point the county would begin receiving all the tax revenue, Arrowood said.

Lowe's is asking that it receive $100,000 per year for 10 years, Arrowood said.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan expressed concerns about such a deal. Morgan said the county does not do anything like that for locally owned businesses, and said the tax break proposal is "completely out of scale" from how the county normally operates.

Morgan said tax increment financing deals usually are reserved for attracting businesses that are hedging on whether to locate in an area. Morgan said Jefferson County is probably going to get a Lowe's anyway.

Arrowood said Jefferson County will benefit greatly from a Lowe's store. Not only will the store create 175 jobs and an annual payroll of $3.6 million, it will attract other businesses that want to locate around it, such as restaurants, Arrowood said.

"We're looking forward to being a neighbor here in Charles Town," Arrowood said.

Lowe's has a store in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Arrowood said he believes the two-county area can support another store given the growth that is expected in the area.

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