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High Springs requests tax break for Plantation Oaks

HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission voted on Thursday, May 24, to submit an application to the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Council of Economic Outreach requesting a tax rebate for Plantation Oaks Assisted Living Residence, a local business that provides care to elderly people who can no longer live by themselves.

During the April 26 meeting, Commission Scott Jamison said he was concerned that Plantation Oaks did not meet the guidelines required by the ordinance for tax exemption.  The exemption would grant Plantation Oaks a 60 percent reduction in taxes for six years.

“It concerns me a little bit that we are looking at approving something that doesn’t fit any of the criteria in an ordinance that we put forth,” Jamison said.

The ordinance requires at least 25 non-manufacturing employees for a new business, which Plantation Oaks does not meet. To calculate the possible tax reduction, the commission took into account the number of employees and average employee wages.

A majority of the commission felt that the business should be granted the exemption in hopes of creating  a business-friendly environment in the city. The intent was to give benefits and breaks to business coming in, said Commissioner Linda Gestrin.

High Springs city attorney Raymond Ivey said the commission can grant a waiver for Plantation Oaks, but warned that doing so for a business not meeting the requirement could open the door to others requesting the same treatment.

“This is a business that has added employment to the city, has bent over backward to help the city,” Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas said at an earlier meeting. “If we want to continue to invite businesses to come to town, this is something that we said we were going to do years ago in economic developments and incentives. It will go to the county, and they will review it.”

On March 20, Mayor Dean Davis said the owner of Plantation Oaks purchased the building for $2 million. Previously a conference center for Seventh Day Adventists, the building was not on the tax rolls, but the taxes expected from the business for this year total $51,000 to $53,000. According to Barnas, the business pays $12,000 to the city in taxes.

At the May 24 meeting, Commissioner Sue Weller made the motion to pass the application along to the Council of Economic Outreach. Commissioner Scott Jamison voted against the measure citing the applicant’s failure to not meet the required guidelines. The motion passed four to one.

“They are helping our city,” Davis said.

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