‘Economic opportunity zone’ would provide tax relief to investors in Boyle County

Published 8:33 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

Boyle County, Danville and Junction City are hoping to get a large portion of the county designated as an “economic opportunity zone,” which would provide capital gains taxes relief to private developers.

The proposed “Historically Bold Opportunity Zone” stretches from the northern edge of Boyle County north of Danville, through the center of Danville and south to Junction City and the Danville-Boyle County Airport, then sweeps east, incorporating a large portion of the Forkland area out to Mitchellsburg.

The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership filed an application to create the opportunity zone this week, including letters of support from Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney, Danville Mayor Mike Perros and Junction City Mayor Jim Douglas. Danville City Commission and Boyle County Fiscal Court both voted to approve of their respective executive officers’ actions.

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If the opportunity zone is created, it would allow for private investors to get a “capital gains tax deferral,” Danville City Manager Ron Scott said Monday.

The U.S. opportunity-zones program was created by language added to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — the sweeping tax cuts enacted by Republicans and President Donald Trump.

Scott and EDP President Jody Lassiter said the window to apply to create an opportunity zone was very short — a matter of weeks from when officials were first notified to the deadline to file in late February.

Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, speaks to Boyle County magistrates Tuesday about the potential to create an “economic opportunity zone” in Boyle County. (Photo by Ben Kleppinger)

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the governor of each state is allowed to designate up to 25 percent of the state’s census tracts as opportunity zones, as long as those census tracts meet certain thresholds of being “low-income” or other factors, Scott said. Census tracts are small areas of a few thousand people each, as defined by the U.S. Census.

Lassiter said Tuesday there were only four census tracts in Boyle County that qualified, and the EDP and local governments decided to include all four in their economic opportunity zone application. Tracts in the Perryville area could not be included because they did not meet the requirements set by the federal government, he said.

The northernmost tract in the proposed zone covers much of the land north of Danville in the area of Ky. 33 and the north side of downtown. Below that is a tract that covers much of south central Danville. A third tract extends further south, including much of the south end of the Danville bypass and extending down toward Junction City. A fourth tract extends from Junction City and the airport west into the Forkland and Mitchellsburg areas.

Lassiter said if Gov. Matt Bevin chooses to include the “Historically Bold Opportunity Zone” in the zones he nominates, it would then be reviewed at the federal level before it could be activated and developers could receive tax breaks for building projects in the zone.

According to local officials, there are likely to be a lot of applications for opportunity zones from Kentucky’s more urban areas; smaller communities may not have had the resources to apply within the short timeframe. Danville-Junction-Boyle’s application will be up against all the others submitted in Kentucky for the limited number of slots available.

“Because we were able to get all of that done probably faster than most, I think we stand a pretty good chance of getting it,” Perros said Monday night.

The application lists 12 economic development projects in the area that could benefit from the capital gains tax relief, including:

• “the planned development of the Hub’s third-floor;”

• “the planned construction of (Buffalo Wings and Rings);”

• “Project DC,” a prospective hotel development company considering adding a hotel to the downtown Danville area;

• “Project Louis,” a real estate development firm that wants to build a restaurant and business at the southeast corner of the bypass and Hustonville Road;

• “Project Queen,” a potential location for a “big-box retailer prospect” next to Lowe’s;

• “Project Stetson,” another “big-box retailer” prospect;

• “additional private investments by aviation-related businesses … anticipated” at the Danville-Boyle County Airport; and

• a “European distillery company” that “is considering our proposal for a historic house/farm location within the city limits of Danville and within this census tract.”