Chapin Council Gives Reading To Hospitality Tax
Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 at 10:20 pm.

The Chapin Town Council Tuesday gave first reading approval to imposing a two percent hospitality tax on the sale of prepared foods and beverages within the town limits. The motion by Mayor Skip Wilson and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Clonts carried by a 3-2 vote. Robbie Frick also voted in favor. Kay Hollis and Gregg White voted in opposition.

In citizen comments before the vote was taken, Jerry Caldwell of the Coffee Shelf said, “I live outside the town limits, but I own a business inside the town, The Coffee Shelf. I understand we need better infrastructure in Chapin. My customers understand that. We get it. But it’s my strong opinion that the hospitality tax is the wrong way to go about accomplishing that mission.

“I moved here six years ago,”Caldwell said, and I learned quickly that those of us living in the 29036 area code, when we go out to eat, we go to Harbison. That’s just what we do. When you’re a business owner your goal is to change the habit pattern of the consumers who live here. And that’s a tough habit to change. And I think that’s an understatement. It’s the goal of business owners here in Chapin to achieve growth. Chapin has grown; there’s no doubt about it. But in the time I’ve been here I’ve seen that growth fail in many painful manners, and you who live here know what I am talking about — businesses come and go.

“It feels like we are starting to make inroads on that, and Publix will certainly help to change the habit patterns and get people who live outside the town limits to come into Chapin, but to say we have turned the corner would, in my opinion, be an overstatement. We have not turned the corner yet. We’re not there.

“I feel a hospitality tax would be a huge step backwards. We are starting to change the habit patterns. We are starting to get people to understand there are things to do here in Chapin. You add a hospitality tax, and now people are going to be apt to think, “Why don’t I just go to Harbison? I’m not saving any money by staying here.”

“I’ve heard the argument that we are just talking about two cents on the dollar. Well my customers already pay seven cents on the dollar. Now they’re going to be paying nine cents on the dollar. To think that that is not significant, in my opinion, may be a little bit shortsighted. This will better serve to stunt our growth than it will to speed our growth.

“Chapin is not a tourism designation. In the Chapin area, the tourists are those who live in the 29036 zip code. Do we really want to lose those? In my opinion this could go a long way toward losing those patrons.”

Leisha Huffstetler reminded council of taxes Chapin area residents pay for various services and commodities, and said “we are already taxed enough.” She said “the H-tax is not taxpayer friendly, business friendly, or struggling family friendly. We are taxed enough as it is. This is not the way to get things done.”

In response to questions from Kay Gordon, Mayor Skip Wilson said that if the two-cent hospitality tax is implemented on prepared foods and beverages, “revenues would increase from 8 to 9 percent from businesses. When you’re supporting tourists, you’re supporting foot traffic, and you generate revenues directly related to those activities, infrastructure, etc.   It is a customer tax, not imposed upon the businesses.”

Wilson said, “This is the best thing for our future here, and it can be very important going forward. In seconding the motion, Mike Clonts said, “I agree with Mrs. Huffstetler that it is a tax, and we are taxed enough. So it is a serious matter to consider. I do agree that the things we are wanting to fund with this revenue are things that we would like to have, and somehow we have to be able to pay for stuff. And so how do you pay for stuff? With most governments it’s through taxes. It is a discretionary tax, one that people can choose to participate in or not. Our neighbors have it. But when I go to Columbia and pay more for a biscuit and a drink, I recognize that it costs more. I think it is something we need to consider, and giving it first reading will give us a month to hear public comments.”

In other business, council heard a presentation from Morgan Grimball and Clay Cannon regarding a proposed Town Park Master Plan by Grimball-Cotterill. The proposed park would include an amphitheatre, dog park, playground, walking trails, restrooms, perhaps the old Chapin Train Station and a splash pad. Grimball estimates that the first phase of the park would cost around $1.5 million and the second phase, around $1.9 million.

Final approval was given to a Fiscal Year 2016 Utility Department Budget Amendment, adding $900,000 to the budget — $400,000 from unencumbered sewer tap fees and $500,000 from the utilities fund balance to fund the engineering services contract for the Waste Water expansion project.

Second reading also was given to an update of Article 7 (Landscaping, Buffer and Open Space) of the Chapin Zoning Ordinance.)

The Council also proclaimed Oct. 23-29 as “Environmental Systems Operators Week: and Nov. 17 as “World Pancreatic Cancer Day.   Resolutions were approved authorizing mutual aid and assistance agreements for the Utility Department and the Police Department.

Council went into executive session to consider a design contract for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion Project.