Chamber Advocacy Update – December 9, 2014


As part of your Chamber Business Advocacy Committee’s goal of monitoring, informing, communicating and advocating on your behalf regarding important issues impacting local businesses, listed below are highlights for the upcoming local government meetings during the weeks of December 8.

As with all City & County Commission meetings, Chamber staff will be in attendance in support of your business and joining with our partners toward enhancing our region’s economic climate.  Below you will find a brief description of those issues that you may find of special interest.

Leon County Commission Meeting (December 9)

Immediately following their day-long annual retreat (strategic planning session) on December 8 (which was highlighted by an interactive discussion with new FSU President John Thrasher and included Thrasher highlighting his strong desire to collaborate closely with the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and EDC moving forward – as well as with both local governments), the next Leon County Board of County Commissioners regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 9 at 3 p.m. in the Commission Chambers of the County Courthouse.  Additional information regarding all County agenda issues (such as those highlighted below) can be found in the full County agenda HERE.

The last regular meeting of 2014, the County Commission has a few notable action items on the agenda that are of interest to the business community, including:

  • Acceptance of the first annual report from DOMI: the county, university and Chamber/EDC supported business incubator located in the Railroad Square area.  Another key resource in the community’s gearbox toward supporting entrepreneurism, technology transfer, business development and the leveraging of venture capital WITHIN our community, DOMI has already reported much progress in their first year of operation. For the detailed agenda item, click HERE.
  • Approval of the FY 14/15 Contract with the EDC: a long time supporter of advancing economic development across our region, the County is set to renew their key fiscal support of the recognized economic development organization for our county in their support of the EDC of Tallahassee/Leon County, Inc.  A partner organization of the Chamber, the EDC also has presented their annual report to the community as a part of this agenda item.  Our sincere gratitude to the Board of County Commissioners for their continued and vital partnership. For the detailed agenda item, click HERE.
  • Acceptance of staff report on commercial zoning and land uses in rural areas of the county:  Building upon years of recent discussion about particular uses in certain rural areas of the community (such as gas stations near rural residential areas), county staff has performed extensive study of potential land uses in these areas.  The report is informative and includes recommendations for future modifications to the comprehensive plan, as applicable to this particular subject area. For the detailed agenda item, click HERE.
  • There are four public hearings at 6 p.m., each of interest to the business community (Please refer to Items #29-#32).   The topics range from limiting fuel sale in rural areas of the county to enhanced lake protection; from the widening project of Bannerman Road in the Bradfordville area to placing the Fire Services Fee on the annual property tax bill for properties in the unincorporated area (the last issue being an action required of the county as agreed to via prior interlocal negotiations with the City – part of a larger fire service fee issue discussed further below).

Tallahassee City Commission Meeting (December 10) 

The next City of Tallahassee Commission regular meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 10 at 4 p.m. in the Commission Chambers of City Hall.  A series of issues presented on the agenda appear of particular interest to the business community.  Additional information regarding all City agenda items (such as those highlighted below) can be found in the full City agenda by clicking HERE.

Also having their final regular meeting of the calendar year, the City Commission has a few notable action items of interest to the business community, including:

  • Agenda Item 9.09 provides for the approving the sale of the City property at 600 N. Monroe Street for $750,000 to a private buyer.  This property, which has been marketed for sale for the past five years, is the site of the former City Utility Service Center near mid-town.  It is anticipated that the buyer (GBGH Construction) will seek enhancing the current facility and property for possible use as a two story restaurant and/or related retail space (subject to future permitting and approval).
  • Agenda Item 13.09 provides an update from the Gun Violence Task Force (aka “Community Leadership Council on Gun Violence”) and the Chief of Police.  A committee including two Chamber Board members (Reggie Bouthillier and Gloria Pugh), the work of the Task Force in previous months has been substantial and proactive to address successfully this community concern.
  • A series of Public Hearing items are placed on the agenda within “Section 16” related to a wide array of issues ranging from a) updating the Land Development Code to allow drive-through uses in the Multi-Modal District to b) numerous zoning amendments to c) amending the Hermitage PUD to now allow for a 142 suite Congregate Care/Independent Senior Living Facility on 11 acres – this represents a new allowable/approved use for that development.  Please refer to Section 16 of the agenda for full details on each component.
  • Agenda Items 13.08 and 16.03 relate to the City’s Fire Service Fee and how that fee is collected (presently collected on City utility bills since approximately 1999).  The first item (13.08) provides a brief description and update of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all non-property owning utility customers who have paid the fee via that method.  The lawsuit was filed in 2012 against the City and County and is jointly defended by Ausley McMullen Law Firm for both.  Item 13.08 seeks additional funds to cover increasing costs of that litigation.  Item 16.03 is a public hearing to enable usage of the annual property tax bill for collection of this fee in the future (called the “uniform method of collecting non-ad valorem special assessments) rather than the current utility bill collection method.  This is an issue that has a number of moving parts compelling review and action (such as the ongoing litigation exposure) that may impact the business community (with potential transfer of this tax being applied to utility users – or in some cases, lessees/renters – to land owners – or in some cases commercial and/or residential lessors).   Moreover, it will be important to monitor the litigation aspect of this issue as there is reported exposure of up to $40m in repayment to the potential impacted class of prior non-property owning City utility customers.  Any such adjudication or settlement would likely require a significant fire service fee hike.  A rate study for this assessment is presently underway and the litigation will be a key variable to monitor moving forward.

A special thanks to Johanna Money, Chamber Board Member and President of the Williams Group, for her close monitoring of this issue via her service on the City Utility Citizens Advisory Committee.  We endeavor to work closely with the City moving forward to review all components of this issue (and its potential impact upon the business community) as necessary steps by the City and County are presently engaged to address the ongoing legal challenge regarding the current method of fee collection.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any further questions you may have about this content and/or the Chamber’s comprehensive set of activities to Monitor, Inform, Engage and Advocate on behalf of the Greater Tallahassee business community through the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee.

On behalf of your Business Advocacy Committee,

Benjamin H. Pingree, MPA
Vice President, Business Retention/Expansion & Public Policy

Seeking to monitor, inform, communicate and engage for the benefit of our members, businesses and economic good.