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S.L. MAY USE TAX INCENTIVES TO LURE RETAILERS

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Salt Lake City is on the verge of handing out sales tax incentives to lure large new shopping centers.

The City Council is expected to consider next week whether to allow the city's Redevelopment Agency to use sales taxes as a new tool to attract trade. Previously, the agency has used only property taxes to grant incentives.Alice Steiner, the city's Redevelopment Agency director, said Friday the change is necessary if the city is to compete with others along the Wasatch Front. Otherwise, the city will always be at a disadvantage because it lacks wide open spaces.

"There are perceived to be some additional costs related to moving into Salt Lake City," she said. "We just don't have big open pieces of ground."

To move a large retailer into the city, older buildings and homes must be bought and destroyed.

Steiner said the city already is working with "four or five" large retailers interested in moving to Salt Lake City. "They need 10 to 15 acres each," she said.

Under the proposal, the city would grant money or land to the retailers, using part of the sales taxes generated by the new businesses to recover the costs.

State lawmakers recently made it illegal for cities to grant property tax incentives to retailers unless the incentives go to restoring old and blighted retail businesses.

City officials said they plan to use sales taxes only for large retailers. A document prepared for the City Council said the average Costco store earned $73.04 million in 1991-92. In contrast, the largest grocery store in Salt Lake City reported gross sales of $29.2 million.

The agency was close to helping a large retailer buy and destroy 118 houses in the south central part of the city earlier this year. But the City Council forced it to back off after neighborhood protests. Officials are working with the same retailer, whom they declined to name, to obtain land elsewhere in the city.