Candidates for Walden’s alderman and mayor positions distinguish themselves by their advocacy for or opposition to the proposed development of the Lines property. The development itself does not comply with an existing land use plan developed by a prior administration. In fact, that plan was jettisoned wholesale in order to accommodate the developer’s demands that will make the site economically feasible for a lower quality grocery store chain recently ranked at or near the bottom in a survey of Chattanoogans’ preferred stores.
My experience with commercial and residential development includes developing in attractive communities similar to Walden such as Franklin and Brentwood in Tennessee, McKinney, Tx. and Savannah, Ga. In those communities, our plans had to comply with existing and usually restrictive community land use plans adopted to preserve the qualities that made those communities attractive in the first place with a goal of enhancing the existing value of real estate, and certainly not reducing the value. The catalyst for those candidates advocating for the current plan is the loss of Walden’s portion of the soon to be eliminated Hall Income Tax.
The Hall Income Tax was established in 1929 as a 6 percent tax on dividends and interest. Before its staged elimination, 60 percent of collections were paid to taxpayers’ cities of residency and the balance went to the state’s general fund. For those of us who have been paying the Hall Income Tax, in my case for 40+ years, we have received a substantial reduction in our taxes. We have been subsidizing those who did not pay the tax for the cost Walden’s road maintenance, garbage pickup services, security purchased from the county’s sheriff’s office, etc. If, in fact, the loss of the Hall Income Tax did create the need for an increase in real estate taxes, it would be a case of expanding the tax base to those who have been subsidized.
The main argument made by those who wish to ignore the existing land use plan is that we have a hole in our budget and we need to fill it by allowing a development that would not otherwise be allowed. I have yet to see what additional costs the community would incur if this development is allowed to go forward. There is no free lunch.
One writer in this publication claims that, hypothetically, he will pay an additional $8,000 in real estate taxes over 20 years unless this development is approved. That same writer, hypothetically, might very well save $20,000 in Hall Income Tax over those 20 years.
I appreciate all those who have offered themselves for our town’s elected positions but my vote will be with Lee Davis and Lizzy Schmidt who are taking the long view.