Abatement Given to Dentist Office Despite Recent Council Claims

By Rachel Martin

June 26, 2012 Updated Jun 26, 2012 at 11:30 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – City Council approved a tax abatement for a dentist office although despite claims to restrict current policies.

Should professional services, like medical offices, be given a tax break? Some Fort Wayne City Council members say, “no,” but that didn't stop them from approving a tax abatement for a dentist office Tuesday night in a 5:2 vote, with two abstaining.

Sedation Dentistry wants to build a 10,000 sq. ft. medical office at 12714 Coldwater Rd. The dentist office will create four full-time jobs and cost $1.7M.

A tax abatement is a break given to developing businesses on their property tax rates. Some council members, like Tom Smith (R—1st Dist.), and Russ Jehl (R—2nd Dist.), had problems approving the abatement for a dentist office. The council has granted abatements to professional services before, but Smith says council shouldn’t grant abatements to all professional services, just like they don’t grant them to retailers. Smith says abatements should be reserved for manufacturing other types of businesses.

“We have to look at our city policies and refine that a bit, but I don't want to be giving tax abatements to lawyers and accountants and all sorts of things. I just think that takes that too far and I'm sort of drawing the line right now,” said Smith.

Jehl says his main issue is the fact that land needed to be annexed in order to build the dentist office—land that is just outside of Fort Wayne city limits. Jehl fears that City Council approving the project will infringe on what should’ve been County Council’s territory.

“I wasn’t comfortable because it put us directly in opposition to the County’s interest. We essentially cannibalized the County through this and I just wasn’t comfortable with the annexation being tied to tax abatements,” said Jehl.

Despite the outcome at Tuesday night’s meeting, City council members say they need to have stricter qualifications on what businesses will qualify. In late May, City and County councils announced they’re forming a sub-committee to revise and compare tax abatement policies in order to work better together.

Professional services interested in developing in Fort Wayne and Allen County can still qualify for abatements. But once policies are revised, it could be more challenging. Jehl says he hopes to amend the current policies by the end of this year.

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