Greenville City Council looking at incentives that could bring grocery stores to needed areas

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GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — The City of Greenville is proposing Economic Development Stimulus Incentives that could bring grocery stores to areas that are considered food deserts and areas where people may lack transportation to get to those stores.

“We are revising our Business License Ordinance and as part of that revision, one of the revisions is that we are waiving fees for business license fees for grocery stores in low income areas. And the purpose for that is to provide incentives for grocery stores to go into historical food deserts,” said Russell Stall, At-Large Representative for the Greenville City Council.

The city is calling those areas, Special Emphasis Neighborhoods, which according to the city ordinance, are majority minority neighborhoods.

“Special Emphasis Neighborhoods” means areas identified by the Community Development division as higher proportion of low to moderate income residents and which are majority minority neighborhoods. At the time of ordinance adoption, this includes the specified areas of Brutontown, Greater Sullivan, Green Avenue, Greenline Spartanburg, Haynie Sirrine, Nicholtown, Pleasant Valley, Southernside, Sterling,
Viola Street, West End and West Greenville,” the ordinance says.

“They have always been food deserts, which means grocery stores are not accessible. There aren’t places to walk to to get food. Historically, these areas have relied on convenience stores, and it is such a challenge because getting transportation to the grocery stores is difficult right now. So, we’re really emphasizing the neighborhood grocer to come in and help make it easy to get food,” Stall said.

It’s the reason why Sally Wills is in favor of the incentives too.

“I work with LiveWell Greenville, which is a coalition that works to create equitable access to healthy foods and physical activity opportunities. And what we know is in many of our Special Emphasis Neighborhoods, there just isn’t equitable access to both physical activity, but also healthy foods. We know how important access is to fresh produce and lean proteins, and just regular fresh healthy food is for our all of to just grow and thrive. And we recognize that, that access is just not there for every person in our community. We feel like this ordinance would go a long way towards creating more equity in that space,” Wills said.

According to the ordinance, the program would waive 100% of the business license fee for five years, for new grocery stores which come to the certain areas.

(b) For any newly established Qualifying Business, the economic development grant amount set out in this section shall consist of: (i) 100% of the annual business licenses taxes levied on said business and actually received by the City for a period of five years beginning from the date of the initial business license application and (ii) 100% of building permit fees associated with that portion of any facility constructed or renovated to accommodate the newly established business provided said fees are actually received by the City.

(c) For any existing Qualified Business, the economic development grant amount set out in this section shall consist of 50% of the annual business license taxes levied on said business and actually received by the City between the effective date of this ordinance and June 30, 2027

“The business license fee is not for high, but it is something, it is an incentive to help grocery stores. Just another little added incentive to encourage them to open in Special Emphasis Neighborhoods and good deserts. Again, it’s not a whole lot but when we match that with some other incentives that we can provide, if someone decides to build a grocery store we can do streetscape, we can do infrastructure, we can do some other programs that will match with the extra incentive with business license,” Stall said.

Some people said they are excited about the future.

“I mean my hope is that many of the residents that live in Special Emphasis Neighborhoods have the opportunity to take advantage of those tax breaks and those tax incentives and start their own business and start building their own family wealth and start to change the landscape of the neighborhood of within,” Wills said.

Greenville City Council said they will discuss the incentives more in two weeks.

“The process in passing the resolution is, it will come up to council in two weeks at our Monday night meeting for first reading, then we will have second reading in two weeks after that, and then it will immediately be implemented,” Stall said.

Officials said the business license fee structure is a result of a state law change.

Other types of businesses are mentioned in the ordinance, as well.

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