City Council Meeting Recap - October 27, 2014

In its second meeting of October, Richmond City Council took the first steps to allow a new brewery to come to town, and moved to settle a tax debt for two Richmond theaters. Check out our recap below, and read the official meeting summary.

More Beer

More than half a dozen breweries ( already call the City of Richmond home, but news that the California-based Stone Brewing Company plans to build a 200,000 square-foot facility here got city and state officials very excited earlier this month.

Ord. No. 2014-218-200

This ordinance creates a "performance agreement" between the City and Stone Brewing Company - essentially a contract that outlines what Richmond will do for the company since it has agreed to invest in a certain amount of new jobs and infrastructure for the area. The agreement was brought to City Council for a vote without much time to read and consider it, something that upset some members.

Highlights of the agreement include:

• Stone Brewing Company will invest $73.7 million in the construction of the brewery and a neighboring restaurant, expected to open in mid-2016.

• Of that investment, about $31 million is predicted to be taxable by the City.

• Richmond will provide $2 million in grants to the company, in the form a Local Economic Development Grant and a Sustainability Grant, as well as some infrastructure improvements to the Greater Fulton Area where the facility will be located at an unspecified cost.

• The plant and restaurant will create 288 jobs, with a mandate that the company list all openings through Richmond's Center for Workforce Innovation.

• This neat table showing the estimated beer production for the plant during its first 8 years of operation and how much wastewater would be generated.

Ord. No. 2014-215-196

Not strictly related to Stone Brewing Company, this ordinance does away a wastewater surcharge for Richmond's breweries.

To properly filter its wastewater, the City of Richmond needs to add nitrogen to the water to remove excess ammonia, and then remove the excess nitrogen before discharging it into the environment. To remove the excess nitrogen, a large amount of methanol is needed.

In the past, the City has purchased this methanol externally, but methanol (colloquially known as "wood alcohol") is a byproduct of alcohol brewing. This ordinance would eliminate the wastewater surcharge for Richmond's breweries because they produce a waste product that the City can use to save money.

(Tax) Break a Leg

Ord. No. 2014-214-199

This ordinance lets the City grant $1.75 million to the owners of Richmond's Altria Theater and Carpenter Center to cover an unexpected tax bill.

It's undisputed that tax law can be confusing, and the background to this ordinance is a perfect demonstration of that. When Richmond began renovating the Landmark Theater (now Altria Theater) and Carpenter Center in 2007, the City leased both properties to a for-profit company to take advantage of historic tax-credits. However, this meant that the buildings were no longer exempt from paying real estate taxes to the City, something that was apparently overlooked in 2007.

When both theaters were assessed this year, it was discovered that their owner owed Richmond $1.75 million in unpaid real estate taxes. The owner, RPAC Inc., asked the City for this grant so that they could then pay it back to Richmond as real estate taxes.

Theoretically, this should have resulted in no gain or loss of money for the City, but Councilman Parker Agelasto, one of two members to vote against this ordinance, revealed on November 2 that this year's tax bill of $255,564 from the Altria Theater had apparently been included as projected earnings in Richmond's budget. Council, however, decided against changing its vote at a special meeting Monday.

Moving Rapidly

Ord. No. 2014-216-197

This ordinance approves a grant from the City of Richmond to the Greater Richmond Transit Company of $350,000 for starting the development of the Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project.

Richmond and Henrico County were awarded a $24.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in September to develop a bus rapid transit system along Broad Street. This funding will be for a preliminary engineering study and some consulting costs.

Shockoe Bottom and the Stadium

Res. No. 2014-R180, 2014-R181, 2014-R184, 2014-R156

DELAYED - Council is still not ready to take action on anything baseball or Shockoe Bottom-related, so these resolutions will be taken up in the November 10 and December 8 meetings.

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