Foundation must pay permit fees for center

Carroll won't waive costs for building for nonprofits

August 27, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Concerned with setting a precedent, the Carroll County commissioners refused yesterday to waive about $10,000 in permit and development fees for a charitable foundation that plans to construct a $4 million office building for area nonprofit organizations.

Anverse Inc., formed in 2000 in Carterville, Ga., would provide rent-free space to Head Start, the Community Foundation and other organizations in a three-story brick building set for construction on Clifton Boulevard in Westminster. Anverse bought 3 acres in the Englar Business Park nearly two years ago for about $700,000.

"While we understand that Anverse is unique, it would be precedent-setting to waive fees," said Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff. "From an administrative aspect, we have to recommend against."

Powell said the county is "very supportive of what Anverse is accomplishing in our community." The decision to deny the request was extremely difficult, he said.

"We not only support the project, we laud it," Powell said.

Company officials presented their case to the commissioners with details of the 40,000- square-foot building, tentatively called the Carroll Nonprofit Center. The private foundation is fully endowed and does not engage in fund-raising activities, said Marty Sonenshine, executive director of Anverse and formerly vice president for operations at Prestige Cable TV Inc.

A review of tax returns filed by Anverse shows that it is mostly funded by proceeds from the sale of Prestige Communications of NC Inc. - a company that held the cable franchise for Carroll County for 16 years.

"We could really benefit this community by constructing this facility with space for all these nonprofits, who are now cramped for space," Sonenshine said. "We will provide them rent-free space, so they can put those dollars back into their programs."

The building, which Sonenshine called "our guinea pig," would include a research library, a conference room and as many as 27 office suites. Anverse would provide landscaping, maintenance and housekeeping services - an estimated $300,000 annual expense, he said. The foundation is also furnishing the building.

"We are looking for as much help from you as we can get," he told the commissioners. "Relief from the fees would mean more money to spend on this project. We are interested in getting the most out of our dollars allocated to this project as opposed to putting money into fees. Ten thousand dollars means something to us."

After the meeting, Sonenshine said he did not anticipate any fallout from his board of directors as a result of the commissioners' decision. Anverse has put the project out to bid and expects to award the building contract within 30 days, he said. Construction will take about 18 months, he said.

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