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WORK SESSION: City Receives $100,000 from HMDA; Controversal Zoning Item Postponed Until February
J. Roger Smith, the newly elected chair of the HMDA presented the check to Mayor Steve Williams.
“I’ve got $100,000 from HMDA," Smith said explaining that all net revenue in excess of costs is remitted to the city. Recalling the tough recessionary period when HMDA was struggling for funds, "We've come full circle and now we are positive."
Smith added, “Heart makes a great football player and Steve always had a good heart,” as Williams recalled the time when as city manager they worked together to “hit home runs” by authorizing the sale of superblock land to Red Lobster.
Both attributed the latest sale to executive director Tom Bell. Smith said that the Kinetic Park project (and others) have created 1,300 jobs.
Mayor Williams suggested that the funds go into the contingency account. However, he asked the council financial gatekeepers to entertain capital improvements. “We have a lot of projects. Have us come back by date certain as to which capital improvement projects” would be proposed.
The new Mayor remains optimistic concerning legislative extension of Home Rule. At least one “draft” proposal included a “no taxes” provision, which would cripple the City of Huntington’s business tax reforms (no B & O on manufacturing and reduction on service business) and the one percent sales tax, which has provided more revenue than anticipated.
Williams explained that the draft statement, according to Del. Jim Morgan, had been inserted by counsel at no one’s instruction. Early word suggests the legislature may expand the pilot program to include more cities.
The mayor reassured council members about the pending legislative session since any omission of the city sales tax “would wreck havoc” on the budget under preparation.
He explained that , as previously reported, the occupation tax ordinance will be rescinded but the timing will be subject to resolution of the parties in the still stalled but active Kanawha County litigation.
“It will not be implemented,” Williams stressed.
In addition, council has agreed to postpone until the first meeting in February action on a possible re-zoning. Mayor Steve Williams has asked to look at the proposal for 33 to 215 W. Sixth Avenue for a tea house business , which would apparently require a shift from R-4 residential zoning to C-1 neighborhood commercial zoning.
The Planning Commission voted 3-1 to not recommend the change.
Councilman David Ball asked, “Why is it [before council],” adding, “I’m a rules person . I want the procedure followed one, two, three.”
Recalling the barrage of influential calls and filled galleries of prior zoning votes such as the gun shop in Highlawn, Mayor Williams suggested a postponement to allow time to examine the issue in depth.
“We do not need to create a procedure . We need to reference [current] planning and zoning regulations in those areas. We will receive direction we need to take,” Williams explained , noting the delay will avoid an awkward circumstance of voting on a negative recommendation.
Also on the agenda is the first reading of an ordinance that would seek re-financing of sewer revenue bonds at a lower interest rate, if available.
Among the confirmations, council will approve Scott McClure as both city and council attorney. Within the next two weeks, he will provide a summary to council of major suits against the city that could impact the general fund.
When asked by council member, Sandra Clements, about the number of suits against the city, McClure responded there were in excess of ten which could have general fund exposure.
“The Westmoreland barge issue is one of the bigger ones,” McClure said.
The actual discussion of pending litigation will come in an executive session.//