Should property owners on Dixie Highway have their taxes increased to help pay for a train station in Wilton Manors? The answer depends on who you ask. But, even those who are open to the idea want more details before deciding to support it.
Joe Pallant, who owns Pallant Insurance, has become the de facto leader of property and business owners who are willing to have their taxes increased to help fund one of the planned Tri-Rail train station platforms that’s supposed to be built. Along with Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and other cities with the FEC railway running through them are vying for stations. If Wilton Manors gets a station, it would most likely be built south of Five Points.
Pallant sees big benefits for local businesses if it is.
“People would come to Wilton Manors at night and daytime and help support the commercial business and restaurants. If you don’t build it [here] they can’t get off here,” he said. “They’d be getting off in Oakland Park. I’d like to see them getting off in Wilton Manors.”
Pallant added that he’s glad the city has increased its financial commitment to a station by setting aside $50,000 in reserve funds to help pay for it. Commissioners said designating reserve funds is only a way to show the city’s commitment. The $50,000 has not been spent yet and is only designated for the station on paper. If the city does spend money on a station, commissioners said it would either come out of the general budget or grant money. City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said the city plans small increases to the funding each year.
“I think it’s a little early to talk about special taxing districts,” she said.
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In Pallant’s proposed special taxing district, property and home owners within a certain distance, including ones on parts of Northeast 26 Street and Northeast 24 Street, would be taxed. Pallant suggested a range of about 2,000 feet. He said the homeowners would benefit because they would be close to the station and could utilize it easily. Right now, Pallant envisions half the cost being paid by the city and the other half by the taxing district.
But the taxing district is still a preliminary idea.
Any taxing district would have to be approved by property owners. The Wilton Drive Improvement District was approved by a majority of that street’s property owners, but only commercial property owners were taxed. Residential property owners were not. The money generated will be used to make improvements to Wilton Drive.
At least two property owners said they are open to a possible increase in taxes, but they have to know more details before officially saying yes.
“I might be, but I’d want to see more details first,” said Norm Carol, who owns the Sterling Accounting building and other property along Dixie Highway. Dean Borg, one of the owners of The Metropolitan, said he’s in favor of the train station but he needs more details before supporting a special taxing district. “We’re certainly in favor of the train stop. I think transportation’s critical in this day and age.”
Jeff Sterling, owner of Sterling Accounting, said he thinks the special taxing district would be “well worthwhile,” even if the cost is passed onto the renters, but he’d like to see it used for more than just a train station. “It would be a huge step up for us.”
Tim Abbot is one of those business owners who could see his rent go up.
Abbott, owner of Retro Video, said the train station is a good idea. His only concern is how much a possible tax increase may impact his rent. He’s willing to pay a little extra but not a lot. “I guess it would just depend on how much. If it was a small amount, that would be fine. If it was a huge amount, then no.”
Virginia Flaherty, co-owner of About Town Lock & Safe, is against the station no matter what the effect on her rent is.
Growing up in Chicago near a commuter train station, Flaherty said she doesn’t think the area has the infrastructure needed to accommodate the traffic increase that will ensue if a station is built. “I’m not interested.”