The Brookings City Council has unanimously voted to discontinue collecting Systems Development Charges (SDC) on existing and previously occupied buildings when the business use changes.

"For many years I have had a concern that collection of these fees has negatively impacted businesses wishing to open shop in our downtown core," said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. "We made this decision to encourage business owners to look at existing buildings downtown when they are seeking to start up a new business or relocate."

Systems Development Charges resemble a "user fee" and are based on the kind of business is there, taking into account that some uses, such as restaurants and beauty shops, place a higher demand on the city's water and sewer infrastructure.

"Prior to this change, the conversion of 1,000 square feet from office or mercantile space to a restaurant would require an SDC payment of $26,000," said Brookings Building Official LauraLee Snook. "People were forced to look for a building that had previously housed a restaurant in order to avoid the charge. I have been contacted recently by two business owners who are interested in relocating to downtown Brookings as a result of this decision by the council."

The city has charged SDCs since the early 1990s and have commissioned several rate studies over the years. The last study, done in 2009, resulted in the recommendation to substantially reduce the charge.

"We continue to pursue a vibrant and attractive downtown core," Hedenskog said. "We started with the faandccedil;ade improvement program and the downtown beautification project, and now we are addressing issues that make it more affordable to locate in the downtown core."