Small business owners irked by big business tax break - FOX 13 News

Small business owners irked by big business tax break

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

It wasn't unanimous, but St Petersburg City Council voted in favor of a special land designation with a big pay out.

The new Sam's Club is already half built, and now, it will qualify for a quarter million tax incentive to open.    

When you drive by the property on 34th Street South, you'd never know what's under all this dirt.

"It has to do with the dry cleaning process, dry cleaning fluid," said Dave Goodwin, director of Planning and Economic Development.

The soil is contaminated.  Cleaning fluid seeped in the ground water.

That's enough for the city to designate the land a Brownfield area, giving the developer a $240,000 payout.

"They have to create the jobs and pay taxes to the state.  The benefit is actually a rebate of taxes they paid in, and if they do everything they're supposed to do, it's $240,000 total," Goodwin said.

It's an incentive to fill properties that are either contaminated or have the perception of contamination. 

The payoff to the business is cash.  The payoff to the city is development.

Churning the mounds of dirt into a superstore is expected to help up the property values in a neighborhood with a lot of older buildings.  A similar deal helped build a Walmart down the street.

"It was an easy decision for us to support," Goodwin said.

Not for Catherine Weaver.

"I feel that the money could be used more for the small businesses rather than the major corporation," she said        

She's an entrepreneur who believes big business stores like Sam's Club pull customers away from independent stores, hurting the neighborhood.

"They are creating jobs at the expense of businesses closing," Weaver said.

"These jobs would have been created anyway," said Moises Venouziou of LocalShops1.com.

Construction was well underway before the Brownfield incentive.

Some small business owners say this as an example of big business getting a big break.

"It's important to clean the environment," Vanouziou said. "It's important to create jobs, but I feel the program was not used in the spirit of the law today.  It followed the letter of the law but not the spirit."

The city says small business owners are just as welcome to participate in Brownfield incentives as any developer.

As for what's next, Sam's Club promises more than 100 jobs.

That incentive will be bankrolled by the state of Florida.

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