Waynesboro City Council approved a resolution Monday evening that might help more elderly and disabled residents become eligible for a partial tax exemption.
A codified program in the city provides tax relief, a partial exemption applicable to real estate tax only, to elderly and disabled citizens. The amount of relief a qualifier receives is pro-rated based on a combined metric of annual gross income and net financial worth.
Since 2007, the income parameters have fluctuated in the city. Some citizens who need aid fall just outside of the qualifying boundaries, and therefore receive no relief. For next year, those income parameters will be expanded in the hope of helping more qualifying citizens receive the relief they need.
“I talked to a few tax payers who literally were just either hundreds of dollars over the gross bounds, or less than $1,000 out of the gross bounds, so as a result received no reprieve,” said Mayor Terry Short. “This provides some measure of additional support and resources for our most vulnerable residents.”
The net financial worth criteria for eligible elderly and disabled citizens is set to be increased by $5,000, and the combined gross income criteria to be increased by $2,000 for qualifying citizens.
Council will bring this matter back in their Dec. 9 meeting.
In other action, City Manager Michael Hamp updated the council on the city’s enforcement of abandoned and inoperative vehicle ordinance.
In compliance with the Code of Virginia, localities are permitted to provide an ordinance stating that it is unlawful to keep an inoperable vehicle anywhere except in a fully enclosed building or structure, or a place otherwise shielded from view on residential and agricultural zoned properties. The ultimate objective of the ordinance is to keep Waynesboro safe, healthy, and clean.
“And inoperable vehicle poses a substantial threat to health and safety in our community and are a blighting influence on the city’s neighborhoods and constitute a nuisance in that regard,” Hamp said.
An inoperable vehicle “includes any motor vehicle, trailer, or semi-trailer” which is not in operating condition; has been partially or totally disassembled for a period of 60 days or longer; or which display neither a valid license plate, not a valid inspection sticker.
After surveying Waynesboro neighborhoods to identify violators of the ordinance, Hamp said notices are being prepared and will be sent out shortly to identified violators. Those who receive a notice will have 10 business days from the official date of notice to either bring their vehicle into compliance, or have it removed. After that time, the city may initiate removal of the vehicle.
Hamp added violators are subject to a civil penalty of $200 for the initial violation, and $500 for each following violation.
“It is our earnest hope that the property owners will come into voluntary compliance,” Hamp said.
Council heard a report from Creative Economic Development Consulting firm regarding the ongoing East Main Street corridor project, meant to redevelop the East Main Street corridor and boost the city’s economy. Crystal Morphis, on behalf of the firm, addressed the council with the work they have done with the city’s project so far, and presented some strategies for the city to begin implementing to make the project visions a reality.
“This redevelopment corridor could be a pivot point for your community,” Morphis said.
The consulting firm has coined the project “Gateway Parkway,” playing off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. After completing a city tour and analyses that studied factors such as types of businesses, tourism in the area and best practices, the firm came up with several goals the city can pursue in the redevelopment project and some starting steps.
The first goal Morphis set forth was to make highway 250 a “tourism gateway.” Because of Waynesboro’s proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, national parks, and other attractions, Morphis said it is important to draw visitors to the city.
“When you pull off the highway, we want something that says, ‘Come into Waynesboro,’” she said.
Visual elements and landmarks are especially crucial in achieving this goal, she added. Showing photos of a stone chimney and one of the stone arches seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Morphis demonstrated how this visual attraction can attract visitors to the community.
A long-term goal Morphis set forth was the development of a new regional visitors center to be located in Waynesboro. As a short-term goal for the meantime, Morphis recommended moving the existing visitor center into the city.
Morphis also highlighted the importance of attracting new businesses to the corridor. Based on a what-if analysis conducted by the firm, she said that if even three new businesses located to the redeveloped area, a projected outcome could be the addition of up to 131 new jobs and an additional $11.4 million in annual output.
Morphis encouraged the council to begin promoting the East Main Street corridor brand both internally and externally. She invited them to use the term “Gateway Parkway” in reference to the corridor, the name that the firm is calling the project. She also recommended working with VDOT plans for safety and traffic flow to respond to a potential influx of tourism as the project develops and generates more traffic in the city.