Staci Mitchell.jpg

Photo by Zach Parker

West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell is laying the groundwork to levy taxes in two separate areas of the city as part of an effort to stimulate economic development.

The two areas would include downtown West Monroe and the former Trenton Street Golf Course property.

Mitchell’s plan calls for establishing economic development districts in those areas in which a sales tax and/or property tax could be levied. Because economic development districts do not include residents, a city can levy a tax within the district without calling an election.

At its regular meeting last week, the West Monroe Board of Aldermen published its intent to levy a 5-mill property tax on any new businesses that might locate on the former golf course property.

When asked Tuesday about levying taxes on businesses in downtown West Monroe’s economic development district, Mitchell declined to answer.

“We’re not levying taxes right now, all we’re doing is forming the boundaries,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, an economic development district including the city’s historic downtown area already exists, but she plans to alter the district’s boundaries. A map shown to The Ouachita Citizen indicated the district extends from Mill Street through the downtown area, including Antique Alley, to Trapp’s restaurant. The downtown West Monroe district is called the Central Business Economic Development District.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to amend the downtown district’s boundaries at the Sept. 10 meeting but tabled the matter instead. West Monroe attorney Doug Caldwell, who serves as the city’s legal counsel, asked for more time to handle property descriptions, according to Mitchell.

“He wanted to make sure he has done the best job he could on all the property descriptions,” Mitchell said. “It should come up at the next meeting. I think he will have it ready to go.”

When asked about whether businesses in downtown West Monroe had complained about her plans, Mitchell said she has not received any complaints yet.

Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen signed off on a measure Sept. 10 to form the Highland Park Development District. The district’s boundaries match the boundaries of the old golf course property.

“It doesn’t include any of the property of existing homes or businesses around it,” Mitchell said. “It’s just that empty piece of property.”

The former golf course property currently has no prospects. No developers or businesses are expected to locate there anytime soon, Mitchell said. That means the 5-mill property tax will already be in place if someone buys property within the new district.

According to Mitchell, some aesthetic improvements might be made to the former golf course property, like trails or a small bandstand.

“All of that will make the property more attractive for developers on either end,” Mitchell said.

The trails could be paid for through city funding and an $80,000 grant, according to Mitchell.

“We have word that the city received it (the grant) three or four years ago but never did anything with it,” Mitchell said. “The trails we have been looking at are about triple and quadruple that amount of money, so we are applying for another grant this fall from (the Living Well Foundation).”

The Living Well Foundation is a non-profit that provides grants to area organizations to enhance residents’ health and quality of life.

Mitchell said only a portion of the former golf course property had been appraised because the city plans to retain ownership of the middle section of the property.

“The 15 acres on the west end of the property is worth approximately $1.6 million,” Mitchell said. “That’s just the commercial end. The other end is probably at a half million, and that’s empty as it sits.”

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