The three commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday in support of maintaining the 400-acre industrial park property as an unincorporated plot of land, signaling opposition to Harrisville's talk of annexing the land and making it part of the city.
Commissioner Gage Froerer spoke most forcefully against annexation, mainly because of the new city property taxes the businesses in the park would potentially face if put within the borders Harrisville. The industrial park was originally created, he said, as "a safe haven" against municipal taxation to lure in businesses. It sits as an unincorporated island between Harrisville, Farr West and Pleasant View.
"This sends a bad message. This sends a message to our businesses that, 'Hey we come in and then you raise taxes on us,'" Froerer said. "It's not a good thing. We want to have a stable environment that businesses can depend on for the future."
Annexation would also send a bad message as a joint economic development initiative approved earlier this year by commissioners in Weber and Davis counties gets off the ground, he said.
Douglas Larsen, a consultant to Harrisville on the issue, attended Tuesday's commission meeting. He didn't address commissioners on the matter, but emphasized afterward that the city at this stage is only investigating the possibility of seeking annexation.
Officials are "very cautiously" moving forward with their due diligence, he said, mindful of concerns about a potential hike in property taxes. Some 50 businesses are located in the park, including Kimberly-Clark.
Harrisville representatives will be meeting with businesses in the park in the coming weeks and months, Larsen said, and officials hope to come up with a plan that's palatable to them. "This may sound odd, but we share the concern of raising taxes on businesses," Larsen said, also noting Harrisville's relatively low tax rate compared to other area cities.
Two Weber State University seniors crafted the resolution put to commissioners as part of a class at the school. The students, Kaitlin Morgan and Kassidy Black, say they favor keeping the land unincorporated to preserve the benefit for businesses of not having city property taxes to pay.
"We'd like to maintain the enticing taxation climate as well for businesses to go there," Black said.
Pleasant View officials have also expressed opposition to annexation by Harrisville. The land in question had been part of Pleasant View until the city de-annexed it years ago to form the industrial park.