By Sami Mirza
Altavista Journal News Correspondent
A smattering of applause filled Hurt Town Council chambers after a short called meeting on the afternoon of Friday, May 12. The only order of business was a unanimous vote to approve the purchase the Staunton Plaza Shopping Center for $165,000.
“This is all part of a plan that, long-term, Councils have been talking about,” said Hurt Mayor Gary Hodnett. “The solar farm was a piece of the puzzle, the plaza’s a piece of the puzzle, and we have a couple other things that we’re still working on and hope to bring into the economic development of the town.”
Staunton Plaza, located on Main Street in Hurt and first built in the 1970s, has been mostly empty for more than a decade.
Hodnett said the purchase was made possible by federal American Rescue Plan funding.
The town will honor the current leases that are in place and plans to use the money from those leases to begin updating the property.
“It’ll be producing immediate revenue, so we would look at how much of that immediate revenue we want to use at any given point in time to put into remodel, facelifts, and stuff like that,” Hodnett explained.
He added that the purchase has been in development for two years, and that in that time a couple people have expressed interested in filling the three or four open slots in the plaza.
Further incentives and development is still in the works, and may proceed under the specific leadership of a council member.
“At the meeting, I talked to Bob Majure, the vice-mayor, about kind of taking over the job of the head person on this — property manager or whatever you would like to call it — and kind of heading up the project,” Hodnett said.
He also pitched the plaza as an answer to rising taxes for Hurt residents. The FY2023-24 budget proposal includes increases of multiple local taxes for the second straight year. If the proposal is adopted, the last two years will have seen a 54% jump in the real estate rate, a 21% increase in the personal property rate, and a 45% hike in the water rate.
However, f the plaza can attract more businesses those vendors can then be taxed by the town.
“When the plaza is where we need it to be, it will be contributing money to the bottom line for our budget,” Hodnett added. “This is what I’ve been talking about for two years; you have to have business and you have to have the development to offset the burden of tax and water on our people that live and reside in this town. Nobody likes the water bills, but without this economic development, it’s only going to fall to our residents. This way, bringing in industry, bringing in development, we’re able to offset that burden on our people, and that’s why we’re doing it. This is the future of the town; we have to have this type of development.”
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