Tempers flare over proposed downtown property tax


WILMINGTON NC (WWAY) — Downtown business and property owners were fired up after a plan to raise property taxes in downtown was shared.

Almost two years ago the Wilmington City Council asked Wilmington Downtown Inc. to look into a possible property tax increase for downtown property owners. A task force was put together, and Wednesday night the task force shared their plan publicly.

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A task force made up of downtown stakeholders like property owners and business owners spent the last year and half looking at establishing an MSD, or Municipal Service District.

Clark Hipp, task force member and downtown property owner, said a MSD would help pay for unarmed public safety ambassadors, economic development programs and maintenance.

“Things will degrade in downtown if we don’t pay attention to our overall environment. I believe downtown requires extra services, and this an opportunity for us to decide what those extra services are,” said Hipp.

The task force came up with imposing a seven cent tax for every $100. They used the example of the Husk on Front Street and Dock, to explain how much an MSD would cost. For that building which valued at about $660,000, the MSD tax would be about $460 each year.

The properties that would be affected would be those already in the Central Business District, which is the core of downtown.

Alan Murphy said the MSD is unnecessary.

“My biggest problem with the fact that it is not needed,” said Murphy.

Murphy, who owns Coastal Kicks on Front Street, said owners should be doing the services themselves.

“I’m involved with every single aspect of my store and I feel that’s why we are still open, if a business owner wants somebody else to do everything else, get a job and get out of my way,” said Murphy.

Murphy said he is also concerned the MSD is being forced on them and others felt that way as well.

Hipp said they have been transparent and open during this process.

He said the services are needed so downtown can continue to compete for business.

“The city is growing around us and we have many retail centers that are coming up in the city,” said Hipp.

While those who would be affected by the tax had a chance to speak their peace, the ultimate decision is left to the Wilmington City Council. The task force is expected meet one more time before they take the plan to council in February.