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Local housing market on the mend

SoVaNow.com / August 14, 2013
With housing markets on the mend, Mecklenburg County is among the beneficiaries, judging from the rise in residential building permits over the past year.

County Administrator Wayne Carter told members of the board of supervisors that the number of residential building permits issued by the county in July rose slightly from the prior month. Mecklenburg County issued 94 total permits for manufactured housing, additions, new housing, garages, or boathouses. In June, the county issued 82 permits.

However, the year-to-year comparison is more telling: permits for these same types of projects were up 110 percent from the same month in 2012.

Across Virginia, the Census Bureau reported that the number of residential permits issued last month fell 7.9 percent, along with housing starts, which fell 3.9 percent. Nationwide, single-family housing starts slipped 0.8 percent over the prior month and permits were down 7.5 percent. The July figures were a disappointment after improvements earlier in the year.

In other business at their meeting in Boydton on Monday, supervisors raised the county’s transient occupancy tax from 2 percent to 5 percent, and earmarked the revenue increase for tourism purposes.

The transient occupancy tax is levied on hotels, motels, boardinghouses, travel campgrounds and other facilities offering guestrooms located in the county, and outside the limits of any incorporated town, which are rented out for continuous occupancy for 30 or more days.

Hotels, motels, and similar non-rental properties located within town limits are not subject to the tax.

Instead, each town imposes on those establishments a lodging tax at the same or slightly higher rate.

Carter told supervisors the projected income from the tax increase was about $20,000 per year.

Bill Blalock, questioning the need for the tax, was told by Carter that the people staying at the sites use the county’s resources, and therefore should have to pay. Carter also said other areas have a similar or higher transient occupancy tax rate.

Clark Dodson, a Clarksville realtor whose business includes managing many of the properties that are the subject of the tax, spoke against the increase.

Dodson said the supervisors were “over reaching” and should consider a lesser increase. “I am not opposed to the tax,” said Dodson, “but you can bet that the people who come here will notice a $30 or $50 increase,” which he equated to a tank of gas.

“It is the difference between coming here and going somewhere else,” Dodson said.

The increase passed without objection, though Blalock never voted for or against, or announced his intention to abstain.

Supervisors approved a number of year-end appropriations and transfers including a $22,181.84 appropriation for the schools to cover higher than expected utility bills.

Before voting against the appropriation, Supervisor David Brankley again questioned whether the nearly $100,000 the school system pays an energy consultant was money well spent. He wanted to know why the consultant had figures showing exactly how much was present and saved on energy costs over the past year, but this same information was not available from school officials.

They, once again, delayed a decision on whether to approve the school board’s request for $200,000 to hire a construction management consultant to begin the process of planning a consolidated high school.

The county received an additional $7,172 for fire protection and these funds were disbursed to the various county fire departments.

Supervisors appropriated two separate Byrne grants for the Sheriff’s office, to upgrade equipment, one for $12,448, which they will use to upgrade their records management system and monitoring capabilities. The second grant for $1,980 will be used for improvements to the victim witness program.

The Southside Regional Library received a supplemental appropriation of $33,320.82 in revenue, but expended an additional $17,789.51, over their budget in fiscal year 2013. These were both approved by Supervisors, who also granted the Southside Regional Library’s request to carryover into fiscal year 2014, the difference between the supplemental appropriation and the additional expenditure of $15,531.31.

Finally, the Commonwealth’s Attorney received a supplemental appropriation of $64,233.69, which would be used to purchase a new case management system. The appropriation was not new money, but came from funds the office saved in fiscal year 2013.

Hoping to improve the lines of communication between the Mecklenburg County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, Chairman Glenn Barbour created an education committee to meet at least quarterly with a counterpart appointed by the School Board. The members are County Administrator Wayne Carter and Supervisors Claudia Lundy and Glanzy Spain.

Finally, during Board member comments, Spain asked to be part of a committee looking into the renaming of Prison Road. Carter said the road, was so named because it was specifically built for access to the now closed maximum-security prison near Boydton. Supervisors agreed, the name was not very friendly and needed to be changed.

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