Lenoir Council approves economic development incentives

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 08:15 AM

The Lenoir City Council on Tuesday approved an economic development incentive agreement that would allow Woodgrain Millwork to only pay 25 percent of ad valorem taxes for five years.

Woodgrain Millwork Inc. is an Oregon-based corporation that will set up shop at 820 Complex St., and plans to invest between $6 million and $8 million in improvements to the site, former owned by Blue Ridge Panels Inc. The company has agreed to create a minimum of 126 new jobs in return for the incentives.

The incentives will come in the form of an annual economic incentive grant for a five-year period beginning in 2013. The five annual grants will be equal to 75 percent of the ad valorem taxes paid by Woodgrain to Lenoir, a value-added tax base due to improvements to the manufacturing facility, and the addition of equipment and machinery.

The vote, however, was not unanimous, with three council members - T.J. Rohr, Todd Perdue and Merlin Perry - casting dissenting votes.

“This sets a dangerous precedent to get into five-year incentives,” Perdue said before the vote was cast. “I would agree to a three-year, but five years is something I would not want to do.”

Council members also approved by a 6-1 vote an incentive agreement with Caldwell Memorial Hospital as a provision of a new medical practice, Laurel Park Women's Health and Mulberry Pediatrics Center, which will be located amid College Avenue, Boundary Street, Harper Avenue and Church Street.

The agreement states that the hospital will staff the practice with a minimum of 14 full-time jobs for a 10-year period beginning in 2015. In return, the City of Lenoir will pay the hospital a jobs grant of $10,000 for each year it maintains the qualifying number of jobs during the 10-year period. If the number of qualifying jobs drops below 14 during the 10-year period, the city would pay a smaller proportion for each year the number falls below 14.

In other action, the council approved by a 6-1 margin to reduce the speed limit on Diamondhead Drive from 35 mph to 20 mph, and to disallow parking on both sides of the narrow, two-way street and cul-de-sac. Currently, there are no posted speed limit signs, which makes the speed limit 35 mph.

The approval came at the recommendation of Lenoir Master Patrol Officer Eddie Keefer, who began a traffic project on Diamondhead Drive, in the Lower Creek community. Keefer spoke with several residents who expressed concerns due to the older age of residents and a few being wheelchair-bound. The two main streets intersecting with Diamondhead Drive are posted at 25 mph and 20 mph.