The City of Newberry has awarded three businesses a total of $50,000 in development fee refunds.
At the Aug. 9 city commission meeting, applicants representing Stone House Neighborhood Grill, Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance and Town Center Storage were awarded funds set aside by the commission in 2019 under Resolution 2020-29.
A maximum of $30,000 per project was allowed based on applicants meeting three criteria: architectural design style, new job creation, and new capital investment in the city.
The Stone House Neighborhood Grill was awarded $30,000 for its Florida Vernacular architectural design, creating 45 full and part-time jobs and for exceeding $2 million in capital investment in the project.
According to the application, the restaurant paid $60,039 in development fees including building permit, site development fees and capacity fees for water and wastewater service and connection fees.
Restaurant manager Jonnathon Muller calls the refund “amazing.”
“It will help out a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into opening a restaurant.”
Muller said business is starting to pick up again since opening on Feb. 4, then slowing down over the summer. Currently, he said the restaurant employs 28 full and part-time employees.
The Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance (AOTC) facility in Newberry Commerce Park also met criteria for a refund. The company specializes in environmental remediation, occupational health and safety training and compliance, emergency response, utility support, and construction and demolition services.
AOTC created 13 full and part-time jobs and invested about $1 million in capital improvements. The AOTC project paid $9,174 in development fees, and the city approved that same amount for refund.
The third applicant was Town Center Storage located near Oak View Middle School on State Road 45.
The company exceeded minimum design standards, created nine full and part-time jobs, according to the owner, invested $1.2 million in capital improvements, and paid the city $10,539 in development fees, and received $10,270 as the maximum allowable refund.
Town Center Storage co-owner Lee Smith, also owns RPM Auto in Newberry. Smith and his partner in the storage business Chris Torrence of Chris Torrence Electrical and Utility are happy about the refund.
“I’m grateful for the program,” Smith said.
He said the storage office has two employees, the hair salon unit in the complex employs six, and a photo studio space is rented to a photographer.
“We’re obviously going to expand in the future, and we’ll put that money toward future fees,” Smith said. “We essentially took a dead piece of property and we turned it into something that is aesthetically pleasing, and it adds much more to the tax base of the city.”
According to Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, the commission started the program to parallel a state program that usually makes awards to large businesses.
“The state incentives are based on if you guarantee so many jobs, give X amount of money,” Marlowe said. “And the state is targeted to a certain list, most of the time retail would not qualify.”
Marlowe said that approach “pretty much eliminates” small and medium business owners.
The commission is planning to continue the program, which is funded by project development fees.
“We wanted to see how the first round went before we re-up,” Marlowe said.
The commission will discuss replenishing the program and possibly increasing the incentives for the second round.
“I know of three projects that could qualify,” Marlowe said. “We could be sitting here with four applicants next time that qualify for $70,000.”