SEBRING - It's possible that some residents of Sebring will be able to thank a Golden Corral restaurant for a small reduction in their property tax bills.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to sell a portion of its land near the fire station on U.S. 27 to Golden Corral.
If everything goes as planned, Sebring will have sometime in 2014 its first Golden Corral restaurant in more than two decades since the previous Golden Corral closed.
The city sold the land for the appraised value of $348,000 plus closing and appraisal costs.
Councilman Scott Stanley asked for numbers on how much the tax rate can be reduced if the proceeds from the sale are put into the general fund budget for next year.
City administrator Scott Noethlich said he believes the owner of a $100,000 house with $50,000 in exemptions would save about $31, but the savings would be smaller for most homeowners, whose dwellings are not valued that high.
Noethlich said the sale of city land does not require bids.
The sale included a restrictive covenant that will be applied to all land - with some exceptions - currently owned by the city within a 3-mile radius of the land sold for the Golden Corral. The land could not be used for a business that obtains more than 20 percent of its revenue from a buffet-style restaurant. That would apply even if the city sells that land, Noethlich said.
Exceptions would be some existing city properties, including the city golf course, Harder Hall and Highlands Little Theatre.
Stanley cast the only vote against the sale, saying that he objects to that restriction regarding buffets and doesn't believe the city needs to sell the land.
But Councilman Bud Whitlock said he doesn't believe the city should keep owning property for which it doesn't have a use.
Voicing a similar viewpoint, Councilman John Griffin said the city has owned the land for decades, but hasn't had a reason to develop it.
Supporters also said the sale would bring more economic development.
At one point, city officials talked about delaying the sale pending deciding whether the back of the property is needed for a water tank.
But Larry Weiland, director of real estate for Golden Corral in Florida and several other states, objected to another delay. He said the restaurant represents a $2.7 million investment, which will result in 60 to 100 jobs.
He said the restaurant will draw in people from other communities.
"We are a destination concept," he said.
Weiland said that the previous Golden Corral in Sebring went out of business but is no indication of the success this time. The concept was different decades ago and the last one was about half the size of the building planned for Sebring, he said.