County giving millions in tax incentives for Brownfield properties

County giving giving millions in tax incentives for Brownstone properties

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you live and work in Charlotte, chances are you are close to an area that the state has designated a Brownfield--- an area that's been contaminated and is now being redeveloped in exchange for some big tax breaks.

There are more than 40 projects now in the works on Brownfield sites in Mecklenburg County.

Channel 9 reporter Mark Becker took a look at the list and found the county is giving up millions of dollars in tax incentives to make them happen.

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When Dan Banecker and his wife bought a townhome in Brightwalk -- a new housing development in north Charlotte -- they knew they were moving onto a Brownfield.

The state had found chemical solvents in the groundwater at the site, and through a Brownfield Agreement, were giving homeowners big tax breaks to buy in.

“We're getting a check back from that for over $3,000 and our monthly mortgage payment is $200 less now,” Benecker said.

The state designates Brownfields to encourage redevelopment of areas where there has been chemical contamination.

In Mecklenburg County, there are more than 40 properties with Brownfield Agreements that offer five years of tax breaks starting at 90 percent in the first year, dropping to 75 percent in the second and decreasing gradually to 10 percent in the fifth year.

For residents of Brightwalk and other single-family home developments the savings can amount to several thousand dollars, but for developers of big projects they can reach much higher.

For example, the tax value of the Camden Southline Apartments on South Boulevard was $37 million, but with the Brownfield Agreement, it dropped to just $8 million in 2016.

For the Skyhouse Apartments in uptown Charlotte, the drop was even more drastic, from $59 million to $11 million.

In all, Mecklenburg County’s Tax Assessor said the valuation of more than 600 Brownfields parcels dropped by $295 million in 2016, translating into several million dollars in lost tax revenue.

“The amount that is reduced from revenue due to the exemption is just south of $4 million a year,” Ken Joyner told Eyewitness News.

He said the $4 million represents a small fraction of tax collections in the county and is worth foregoing to encourage development that will add long-term value to the tax rolls.

“I think what we're talking about here really is the ultimate in win-win situations,” said Bruce Nicholson, who oversees the state’s Brownfields program.

He said the short-term loss in revenues is more than offset by redevelopment of land that would otherwise sit idle. He said the tax breaks come with some strings attached, such as making developers pay for the cleanup.

“Yes, they've agreed ... to do the actions in the agreement to make the site safe.”

The Brownfield program is gaining momentum statewide, as well. The state approved 56 new Brownfield agreements in the last year, bringing the statewide total to more than 400 since the program began in 1997.