A couple of months ago, the owners of the stalled Phase II of the Mullins Crossing commercial development asked county officials to return the property to its prior residential zoning.
The word at first was they hoped to save money on taxes. Who can blame them? As residential property, the site's tax bill was $6,200 in 2005; the higher value as commercial property runs that bill up to more than $42,000.
But no, the owners said: It actually was a clerical cleanup because one owner hadn't signed the original rezoning papers. When county commissioners asked Robert Mullins to sign a letter saying if he knew about the rezoning, he didn't respond.
Technically, Mullins should have signed to make the original zoning legal. Because he didn't, commissioners last week decided to go ahead and rezone the land anyway, with the stated intention of then legally re-rezoning it as commercial.
However, officials admit the bureaucratic lag-time means a much lighter tax bill for the owners next year, because the re-rezoning back to commercial won't go through until after 2011 tax assessments.
Rather than creating the unavoidable appearance that they're rushing to give one group of property owners a temporary tax reprieve, commissioners could simply wait until after next year's tax assessments to start the rezoning process.
Commissioners already took more than $6 million in land off the tax rolls when they bought part of Marshall Square. In tough times, and when no one else is getting a tax break, there's no need to hurry and give one to the Mullins landowners.
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