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Planning: general Exurbs during the quarantine

Doberman

Cyburbian
Messages
192
Points
7
As a former Exurbinite, our city was largely dead during the dead with everyone commuting into the metro for work. Several suburbs around us are close to enough to Downtown where they attract some lunch and retail activity during the day and a few had office developments and medium-density employment. Where I lived at the time, was only retail and residential. Of course, traffic was poor in morning and evening and completely free-flow during the day.

I am working with more people teleworking if these bedroom communities are seeing more sales tax revenue than they would otherwise have had with less people community into metro areas.

Thoughts?
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
14,792
Points
51
I think a lot depends on your state's level of closing. Arizona did a soft closing. Restaurants and bars were closed, but retail was open. The Phoenix suburbs might be suffering from loss of restaurant taxes, but not retail - although I think it's lower than normal. For us the restaurant industry - like everywhere - is hurting. At least a lot of the suburban places had drive-through and takeout, but that just doesn't cover their costs. We're not so considered on the retail end. I'm curious how it is for states like Michigan or New York that had bigger shut downs.
 
Messages
3
Points
0
I think a lot depends on your state's level of closing. Arizona did a soft closing. Restaurants and bars were closed, but retail was open. The Phoenix suburbs might be suffering from loss of restaurant taxes, but not retail - although I think it's lower than normal. For us the restaurant industry - like everywhere - is hurting. At least a lot of the suburban places had drive-through and takeout, but that just doesn't cover their costs. We're not so considered on the retail end. I'm curious how it is for states like Michigan or New York that had bigger shut downs.
I can provide what perspective I have from here in Michigan although I haven't been following it as well as I probably should. The state has informed townships and smaller municipalities that the revenue sharing this year will be lower than anticipated, for my community we're standing to lose something like $200k - not insignificant for a smallish township. As for the state overall I think the finances are hurting but I haven't dug into the numbers too much; parts of the state up north weren't closed as long as the southern part of the state was so they might not be quite as hurt but they are also losing out on the tourism that has a significant impact on local economies.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,604
Points
69
I live in the municipality that employs me. Even though it mostly surrounds the region's very dense core city, it has a very exurban / rural character. Example: what it now calls a "medium density residential" zone has a minimum lot size of 15,000'2 (1,400 m2). Anyhow, the municipality has very little commercial zoning. The majority of what little storefront/retail commercial it does have hasn't been affected by New York's "pause" -- a supermarket, a few gas stations, a chain drugstore, liquor store, and a few local restaurants that continued carryout service. However, that's not going to affect our revenue stream that mush.

Trigger warning: revenue wonkery ahead.

What about sales tax? Here's how the state describes it.

The sales tax is an important source of revenues for local governments throughout New York State. In addition to the state sales tax rate of 4%, counties have local sales tax rates of 3% to 4.75%. Many cities also impose their own sales tax, often taking over the revenues from (“pre-empting”) a portion of the county sales tax rate.
NYS also collects state and county sales tax on Internet and mail order sales.

In NYS, local government subdivisions include cities, towns, and villages (which overlay towns). NYS has no equivalent of unincorporated county.

Our county has a 4% retail tax, on top of the state's 4%. However, the core city (population: 31,000) has a 1.5% pre-emption. This means for retail sales in city limits, 37.5% of the county sales tax revenue goes straight to the city. The majority of brick-and-mortar sales tax revenue generation in the county -- I'd say about 80% - 85% -- is in the core city. The remaining county sales tax revenue is shared based on a locally imposed formula, which goes something like this:

75%: county keeps ½; towns and villages get the rest, based on population.
25%: county keeps ¾; core city, towns, and villages get the rest, based on population.

So, for the overall county sales tax revenue that the city doesn't pre-empt, my municipality's cut is ... well, I could set up a spreadsheet to get the exact percentage, but it's something like 3.5% to 4%. That's 4% of what is essentially a 2.75% county sales tax, after city pre-emption.

One thing to keep in mind: when NYS went on pause, the county's population fell by about 15%. Why? Students.. It's a college town, and all the local colleges and universities went online. Some students went home, but many others stayed to enjoy our fantastic summer weather and the outdoorsy recreation that goes along with it. Still, a 15% drop in the adult population means an additional 10%-15% drop in total retail sales.

Anyhow, the core city will be hurting. They depend on a big cut of sales tax revenue for operating expenses, they have a huge base of tax-exempt property, and they also receive more state grants. For my municipality, the bulk of revenue comes from property tax, based on a limited revenue stream of a primarily lower density residential/ag/large lot land use pattern. We receive little state funding. For our tiny cut of sales tax revenue, we'll notice it, but it's probably not going to cripple us. The core city furloughed 25% of its municipal staff. We're still hiring, although we've been told that there could be some belt tightening next year.

My wife works for a county government agency. She's in a very high demand field, and she just got promoted. :)

We're in Phase 3 of the NYS reopening. Traffic is as congested as it was before the "pause". Shopping center parking lots are full. The core city lost a few national chains (Buffalo Wild Wings among them), but is gaining an Old Navy and Trader Joe's. Shoppers made their way back downtown, but summer events are cancelled. The big folk music festivals that we have throughout the summer are all on hold.

tl;dr: we're getting by.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,604
Points
69
Now,, day-to-day life in the exurbs under quarantine. It sucks.

Why? My "country character" cluster subdivision is a close drive to the core city downtown (about 10-15 minutes), but it's disconnected from anything else. There's no sidewalks, and if there were, there'd be nothing to walk to. The nearest commercial uses are miles away. There's no parks within a reasonable walking distance (not including the overgrown, undeveloped municipal-owned "open space" behind my backyard). Walk Score is in the low single digits.

Why does an urbanist-leaning planner like me live in the exurbs? Housing is very expensive in our region, and even homes in the median price range can be "rustic". There's a heavy premium for housing in walkable neighborhoods, but functional obsolescence is even more of an issue. To get anything that resembled a "normal" house at a price we could afford, we had to write off the idea of city living. We weren't about to give up our cars, live in a tiny house or one bedroom apartment/condo, or deal with a schifozz hippie hovel or time capsule.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,751
Points
55
I understand the reality that you're in, Dan. 'Perfect' is the enemy of 'good enough'.

I don't think we'll see mass exodus from 'cities' to 'exurbs', but with WFH being more palatable and accepted by employers there will certainly be a bit more sifting.

I live in a small city County seat at the edge of major Great Lakes metro. We have a really nice scale and local market diversity given our size, but also have the 'small town urban' that I anecdotally know many people want.

I could see strong small cities close to 'stuff' resurging and benefiting from the WFH sifting.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
12,314
Points
52
I do think the second home market in rural areas will see some surge - local realtors in Maine are hearing from city folk who want a second home

I also have heard that places like the Hudson River Valley are already seeing more interest (and it had been growing anyway) from the city crowd

so in terms of people moving, I do think people will think about the rural life more but as a second home because they will miss their city stuff in walking distance...
 
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