Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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Burlington OKs nearly $1M in subsidies for public infrastructure in new medical park

UPDATE from subsequent city council vote on Thursday morning, June 17, 2021:

A package of financial incentives for a new medical park was among the items that Burlington’s city council approved during a special-called meeting that its members convened Thursday morning to dispense with some unfinished business from its Tuesday night meeting from earlier this week.

Among the items that its members revisited during the Thursday morning meeting was an incentives package which the Samet Corporation of Greensboro had requested to offset the cost of the public infrastructure for a 22-acre medical office park near the grounds of Alamance Regional Medical Center.

The council ultimately voted 5-to-0 in favor of an agreement that entitles Samet to $964,000 in reimbursements for the road work and utility lines it installs to serve its five-building medial office park at the southeast corner of Grand Oaks Boulevard and Huffman Mill Road just across the street from Alamance Regional Medical Center. Samet, in turn, has pledged that the development will boast an assessed tax value no less than $25 million.

The city’s agreement with Samet obligates the company to “pay and guarantee payment” of property taxes for five years on the proposed office buildings, which must remain in the hands of a for-profit owner so that the city can recoup its investment into the park’s infrastructure. The agreement doesn’t require the new medical park to add any more jobs to the local workforce, conceding that Samet isn’t in a position to make such a promise “as the ultimate occupants of said office buildings…are not known to the developer.”


Original story from Thursday, June 17, 2021 edition follows:

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It may not bring Burlington any big-name corporations. Nor does it promise to add a single new job to the community’s workforce.

But the proposed development of a medical office park near Alamance Regional Medical Center has nevertheless prompted the city’s leaders to float the idea of providing nearly $1 million in subsidies to offset the cost of the public infrastructure that will serve this development.

The city’s administrators formally trotted out this incentives package during a public hearing that Burlington’s city council held Tuesday over the Zoom teleconferencing platform due to continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal that was pitched to the council that evening concerns a proposed medical park that the Samet Corporation of Greensboro plans to develop on roughly 22.4 acres at the southeast corner of Grand Oaks Boulevard and Huffman Mill Road. Samet ultimately intends to erect five office buildings in this location, which sits across the street from ARMC, adding at least $25 million to the local tax base if everything proceeds according to plan.

Burlington’s city council figuratively paved the way for Samet’s proposal in January when it rezoned the now-vacant property from light industrial to office/institutional use. Since then, the Greensboro-based general contractor has apparently asked the city to make another, more concrete contribution to this endeavor by reimbursing much of the company’s costs for the roads and utility lines that will serve the proposed office park.

The city’s willingness to entertain this request was commended by Brian Hall, a project manager with Samet, who was on hand during the council’s public hearing on Tuesday.

“This is an example of what you guys can do,” Hall told the council that evening, “and you’re doing it in such a way that it will provide greater opportunities for us to continue to invest in the city.

“It takes partnership with local governments like yourselves for us to be able to successfully execute in the current market,” he added. “We hope that we can form this partnership in such a way that we can derive maximum value for the city.”

Under the proposed agreement between Burlington and Samet, the city would ultimately pay Samet some $964,000 to cover the anticipated expense of the roads, water lines, and sewer mains to serve the new office park. In ordinary circumstances, the Greensboro-based general contractor would have to pick up the bill for all these infrastructure improvements. In this case, the city would foot these expenses in return for a guarantee that Samet will follow through with its plans for a five-building office park with an assessed tax value no less than $25 million.

The city’s proposed agreement with Samet concedes that the general contractor isn’t in a position to promise any additional jobs “as the ultimate occupants of said office buildings…are not known to the developer.” Instead, the agreement obligates the company to “pay and guarantee payment” of property taxes for five years on the proposed office buildings. The contract also demands that the buildings remain in for-profit ownership during this period so that the city can recoup its investment into the park’s infrastructure.

In a memo to Burlington’s city council, the city’s economic development director Peter Bishop insists that the city will, in the end, reap benefits beyond the park’s proposed site thanks to the proposed arrangement with Samet.

“The proposed project represents a significant private investment and an opportunity to create jobs for Burlington residents,” Bishop contends in his memo. “The public infrastructure is designed to unlock additional adjacent acreage and set up the immediate vicinity for more impactful job-creating investments in the future.”

Meanwhile, councilman Harold Owen insisted during Tuesday’s discussion that it’s “very realistic” to expect “substantial growth going forward” once Samet brings the proposed medical park to completion.

Burlington’s city council didn’t render a final decision on Samet’s request during its virtual meeting on Tuesday. As stipulated by a state law that has allowed the council to meet online throughout the coronavirus pandemic, its members deferred their vote on the matter until a special-called meeting at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday to give residents more time to submit public comments.

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