CHESTERTOWN — The Kent County Commissioners voted to support the application of an enterprise zone in Rock Hall and Kent County at their meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, following a public hearing.

The Rock Hall Mayor and Council passed a resolution in support of the application following a public hearing at their meeting on Monday, Oct. 4.

“An enterprise zone program provides real property and state income tax credit for businesses located in a Maryland enterprise zone in return for job creation and capitol investment,” Director of Economic and Tourism Development Jamie Williams said at the commissioners’ public hearing.

The eligible zone is the area within Census Track 9505, which consists of property within both Rock Hall and Kent County. Because of that, the municipality and county must apply jointly for the designation.

Census Track 9505 is qualified for designation because it exists within a priority funding area and the poverty level there is at least 1.25 times the national average.

Businesses within the enterprise zone must apply for tax credits and will only receive those credits if it is approved by the town or county.

“It isn’t just a blanket, ‘You get this credit,’” Williams said.

Property tax credits would be on the increased assessed value for expansion, renovation or capital improvements on the property. That 10-year credit consists of 80% of the eligible assessment for the first five years and decreases 10% annually each subsequent year.

Williams said income tax credits are harder to obtain. Those credits include a general, one-time $1,000 credit for each qualified new employee. Economically disadvantaged employees also are eligible for a three-year tax credit for each qualified new economically disadvantaged employee. Those employees would receive a $3,000 credit the first year, $2,000 the second and $1,000 the third.

A full list of requirements for business and employee eligibility within enterprise zones can be found on the Kent County website.

The enterprise zone will not effect home-based businesses — eligible businesses must be on commercial properties.

“We’ve been through a rough couple of years with COVID’s impact basically emptying our storefronts and it’s certainly coming at a good time to move forward at the end of this season and certainly next year. We’re in full support and appreciate the work that’s going into it from the county’s economic development department,” Rock Hall Mayor Dawn Jacobs said during the county hearing.

“I think this is a win-win for Rock Hall and the county,” Commissioners’ President Tom Mason said. “We certainly need some win-wins in Kent County sometimes.”

Williams said it may take 60 to 90 days for the application to be approved. If approved, the program will be administered through the Department of Economic and Tourism Development, with Williams as the zone administrator.

Kent County has had an enterprise zone in Chestertown since 2016. Williams also is the administrator for that zone.

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