EDC acts on restaurants’ funding requests

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By SHELLY WILKISON

After a lengthy discussion that has continued for months, directors of the city’s Economic Development Corp. voted last week to reject a request by the Marble Falls-based Bella Serra Restaurant for $163,000 in public funds to help pay for infrastructure and other start-up costs.

The business, which has purchased property on Brown Bridge Road, first came to the EDC Board in December 2014 requesting assistance for the Italian restaurant that owners said would open in December 2015.

The owners originally planned to utilize an existing building on the property, formerly Shot Time Bar, as a kitchen and expand around it. According to information the business provided to the EDC, 19 jobs will be created for an annual payroll of $226,000. The company was seeking public assistance to offset costs of utilities, water and sewer, sprinklers and a fire hydrant, as well as tax abatements.

EDC Executive Director Kirk Clennan said since the original letter was submitted last year, the restaurant plans have been “scaled back.” He suggested the Board table the request, but Director Eric Van Natter made the motion to deny the request and ask the company to return “with something more realistic”, which received unanimous support.

The Board also took action on a funding request by Major’s Burgers, which was seeking $48,000 from the EDC. The restaurant, which opened earlier this summer, will create 20 jobs, according to owner Fred Hinze, a Liberty Hill resident. Clennan said of the items requested for funding assistance, only the fire hydrant installation warranted consideration because other businesses on State Highway 29 could also benefit.

Major’s owner Fred Hinze requested $6,642 for reimbursement of the fire hydrant. The Board only approved reimbursement for that project.

Additional funds were requested for fire department review fees and Knox Box installation — both items required of all restaurants. Also requested were reimbursements for health department permit, structural engineering fees, PEC electrical fees, a city utility study, city water fees and a sign permit.

Director John Johnston, owner of Dahlia Cafe, abstained from voting on the funding issues regarding the restaurants because he is a competitor. However, he did express his opinion on the matter.

“I don’t think any business coming in town that receives a benefit like this is fair to the other businesses that had to absorb that capital in debt structures,” he said. “I don’t see why you would give the advantage over existing businesses. I didn’t ask for this and I don’t think they should either.”

The Board tabled a request by Bingham Construction on behalf of Tractor Supply. No supporting materials were included in the meeting packet.

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