The city's Industrial Development Board (IDB) on Monday voted to send a proposed Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) at the Tubman site in East Chattanooga on to the City Council and the County Commission.
Several state entities also need to approve the TIF, that would use tax proceeds from the district for $5.4 million in infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years. That includes rebuilding a road to the plant site at the rear of the property near railroad tracks.
Nippon Paint is planting a $59 million automotive paint facility at 29 acres of the former public housing project.
Jimmy Rodgers abstained, saying he agreed with residents who asked "Why the rush?" on the TIF.
Jermaine Harper of city economic development said one factor was that Nippon is anxious to begin the project, which he said will be a "campus" and serve the firm's North American headquarters.
On the issue of why the TIF boundaries could not be extended to include sections such as a Village Center on Glass Street and the Buster Brown site, he said the district was required to be close to Nippon so it can be directly affected. He said a wide boundary would diffuse the effectiveness of the improvements.
He said the paint plant, which will hire 150 workers, will not take all the Tubman site. There will be 15 acres remaining as well as five acres across Southern Street owned by the city.
Mr. Freeman said there will be a public hearing in January on what residents want to see on those 20 acres. He said a Request for Proposals would go out in February with a "master developer" in place by March to being developing that portion.
The City Council will take up the issue on Tuesday night.
Mr. Freeman said some nearby residents should be able to find jobs at the new paint plant. Questioned by Mr. Rodgers, he said there was no requirement that the plant use local residents during construction of the facility.
Mr. Rodgers said that appeared to be "a lost opportunity."
Mr. Freeman said working out a Community Benefits agreement with Nippon was strictly up to the residents, and the city was "staying back" from that.
The city earlier donated the 19 acres to Nippon.
Also, the city is paying to move a 75-year-old terra cotta sewer that bisects the property.
Dr. Everlena Holmes said a wider boundary could help bring needed sidewalks and lighting to East Chattanooga.
She also said the project should wait until the Historic River to the Ridge Plan is unveiled in March.
Eric Atkins of the Unity Group also asked for an expanded boundary.
He said, "This should serve as a catalyst for the growth of all of East Chattanooga."