published Friday, June 1st, 2012

Hamilton County takes up financing of Aetna Mountain road

Representatives of the proposed Black Creek Mountain development asked Hamilton County commissioners Thursday to approve tax increment financing for a road on Aetna Mountain.

The project would be the first in Hamilton County to use this type of financing, akin to payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreements. Both the city and county must approve the TIF.

A TIF finances a project through new property taxes that development generates within a specified area. A bond is issued up front and then repaid with the additional tax revenues. Developers have said they plan to finance the road construction and then turn it over to the city and county within three years.

"This is going to be a huge economic impact in my district and in this part of the county," District 6 Commissioner Joe Graham said during Thursday's agenda session. "The economic impact will be an annual amount of about $6 million in tax impact."

Plans for the project call for a 150,000-square-foot office park, an assisted living facility, a resort lodge, a 20,000-square-foot corporate retreat, a 30,000-square-foot mixed-use town center and restaurants.

Developer Doug Stein said Thursday that the project could yield as many as 1,200 to 1,300 homes. He also said developers will set aside as much as 50 acres for a possible school.

Commissioner Fred Skillern said he generally supports the project, but he asked county officials for more information about how opening the door to TIF financing would affect future development.

"I'm sure it's not going to be the last we're going to be involved in," Skillern said during the meeting.

After the meeting, Skillern said he's researched TIFs, which are used regularly in other Tennessee counties, including Knox.

"I think there's certain property that that's the only way it will ever be developed," Skillern said. "I'd like to set some parameters as to what the limitations might be."

Skillern said developers have been building for years without the tax incentives and he doesn't want to see everyone who wants to build a 300-yard road asking for tax increment financing.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal Wednesday.

In other business, Security and Corrections Committee Chairman Mitch McClure called a meeting for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider extending the terms of two judicial commissioners, or magistrates.

Commissioners voted in October 2011 to renew discussions on creating staggered terms rather than reviewing all four magistrates at the same time annually.

"We will bring a recommendation from that committee to the full commission," McClure said Thursday afternoon.

A decision on whose contracts to extend and how to move forward with the magistrate selection process likely will be made within the next two weeks, McClure said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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