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Restaurant tax meeting in Simpsonville now Thursday

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More public comment to be heard Thursday

By Steve Doyle

EDITOR's NOTE: Because of weather forecasts, this meeting was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Simpsonville City Hall.

 

The city of Simpsonville on Thursday could become the first governmental body in Shelby County to adopt a restaurant tax.

The city commission will consider on second reading an ordinance that would add 3 percent to the bills at all places that serve food in the city, including restaurants and lunch counters.

When the proposal – which is being encouraged by the Shelby County Tourism Commission – first was considered on Jan. 15, there were several comments from business leaders and residents who oppose the new tax, which would generate revenue to promote the county and for tourism-related civic projects in the city.

But since that meeting and headed into Tuesday’s potential final consideration, the public apparently has been quite.

“We’ve had very few calls,” City Administrator David Eaton said. “I’ve had very few contacts about that.”

At the meeting on Jan. 15, Erica Green, who represented J.T.’s Pizza and Subs on Buck Creek Road, chastised the commission for considering its tax on one of the lower-margin business categories and not all retail outlets.

Dan Ison, a property owner in Simpsonville – and the landlord for J.T.’s – asked why a 3 percent tax couldn’t be lowered.

Janet Cuthrell, who lives in the area, spoke against the idea of adding more taxes to a populace that is tired of taxes.

Mayor Steve Eden said the city would take more public comment Tuesday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

This proposed ordinance was spawned by the construction of the Outlet Shoppes of Simpsonville, scheduled to open in summer, and development plans around that mall. This ordinance specifies that 50 percent of any tax revenue – and the tax is proposed to begin on April 1 – would go to the city and would be required to be spent on tourism-boosting projects, such as the city’s events and the next phases of its downtown sidewalk project.

Eden said at that earlier meeting that most of the residents to whom he had talked were in favor of the addition of the tax as a way to generate money for the city’s projects. 

“Eighty to eighty-five percent of them don’t have a problem with it [this tax], a long as it helps with festivals and the sidewalk project,” he said.

Cary Vowels, the city’s finance commissioner, said he had researched 43 cities that have the tax and had read the ordinances of 27 of those. He also traveled to Springfield, in Washington County, to see the direct impact of a tax that was adopted there about five years ago.

Shelby County Tour Director Charlie Kramer, a resident of Simpsonville, said he had spoken with officials at the Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, the property Horizon Group Properties – the mall developer in Simpsonville – opened last summer in Woodstock, Ga.

“They said the people who had benefited the most are the local, non-chain restaurants,” he said. “These [mall visitors] are traveling people. They don’t want to eat at places they have back home.