Both the East Ridge City Council and the East Ridge Industrial Development Board voted unanimously Thursday night to approve an agreement that will allow the border region development in the city to move forward, though the cost of incentives is high and officials were told some risks are involved.
The last big legal step was the incentive agreement with Wolftever Development, the company that is bringing Bass Pro Shops to anchor a shopping district adjacent to Camp Jordan Park.
The state of Tennessee provided East Ridge the designation as a border region. This will allow the city to provide monetary incentives for retail development which will come back to the city by receiving a larger than usual percentage of the sales tax generated at the new businesses.
East Ridge Industrial Development Board attorney Mark Mamantov of Bass, Berry and Sims told the council that there had been a lot of give and take and compromises made in the negotiations to create an agreement that he said was not perfect but fair. He said this would give the city a transformative opportunity.
East Ridge has agreed to pay the developers a total of $4 million. Of that, $3 million will be paid as the building reaches certain benchmarks during the construction and before the business opens its doors. The last $1 million will be paid when the store opens.
Overall, the incentives for the border development could reach $11 million counting the tax abatement, it was stated.
There is risk involved for the city, Mr. Mamantov told the council before the vote, starting with construction risks for unexpected items that could occur at the site which could increase the building costs. There is also the possibility that Bass Pro Shops could ask for tax abatement. By Tennessee law the city would have no say-so in this matter. Hamilton County would be the body that would grant this request. Another risk would be if the store went out of business. The city would still be responsible for paying the incremental payments. The developers are so confident that this project will be successful, they agreed to loan the last payment of $1 million to the city if East Ridge cannot get financing for this last payment in the event that the business fails.
The council voted to issue $300,500 of general obligation bonds in order to fund the incentive agreement.
The timeline for construction began last Friday when the engineering plans were submitted. Permits have been applied for and the developer is waiting to get them back. Filling the site will start Sept. 1 or before if the permits come back sooner than expected.
John Bridger, executive director of the Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency addressed the council about a joint funding arrangement with East Ridge. Several years ago a sales tax agreement between the county and the individual cities expired. In order for the RPA to recoup the cost of services they provided after the expiration and for future services they will provide for the city, a three-year agreement with East Ridge will pay the RPA $46,033 annually. This amount covers basic services but rates for specialized projects will need to be negotiated.
An ordinance was approved to designate five full-time positions for city employees. City Manager Andrew Hyatt said these are not new positions, two vacancies will be filled and all jobs are currently budgeted for. Some job descriptions and titles have changed as well as qualifications and responsibilities. The two jobs to fill vacancies will be advertised.
The council approved a bid of $10,600 for a zero turn commercial mower for the parks and recreation department. Approval was also given to put out for bid, a rescue engine for the fire department. This truck would be set up to use for fire, rescue, hazardous materials handling and emergency medical care. Delivery of this vehicle is not expected before next year so the cost would be included in the 2015 budget.
Approval to obtain bids for two all-terrain vehicles for the police department was also given. They will be needed with the new canoe launches at Camp Jordan Park and for organized events that take place there.
Property at 511 and 517 Frawley Road was rezoned from A-1 Agricultural and R-1 Residential to RZ-1, zero lot line residential. Rezoning was also granted for property at 1511 Maxwell Road with the designation changing from R-1 Residential to O-1 Office district.
The request to change zoning of property across the street from city hall at 1516 Tombras Ave. from R-1 Residential to R-3 Apartments district was denied. The plan that the developer brought before the council for final approval was different from the plan that had been presented to the East Ridge Planning Commission. The number of apartments had been changed as well as the configuration. City Attorney Hal North said that the final version needed to go back to the planning commission for approval before being brought back to the council.
The city’s new ordinance regarding permit fees and application for peddlers and solicitors was amended to allow for political exemptions.
The council voted to participate in the Tennessee Municipal League’s risk management pool driver safety” matching grant program. They also accepted a justice assistant grant of $12,329 to purchase police equipment.
Exemptions were granted to several organizations for waiving the rental fees for city facilities. Hamilton County Schools will hold the event Family Fit Together 5k on Oct. 4 at Camp Jordan Park. The Lions Club was given permission to use the community center for meetings on Sept. 23-25. The Optimist Club will also be allowed to use the Arena for no charge. Dick’s Sporting Goods was authorized as the sponsor of youth football and lacrosse programs at Camp Jordan Park. Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin told the council that parents have received 20 percent discounts plus they have been given discount coupons at the store.