published Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Developer on track for Catoosa County, Ga., subsidies

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Larry Armour, the developer who brought a Costco warehouse store to Catoosa County, is on track to get almost $7 million in local government subsidies for his retail developments here.

At its meeting Tuesday afternoon in Ringgold, the Catoosa County Development Authority voted to give Armour $700,000 — up from $500,000 already set aside — to build a new intersection and traffic signal on Battlefield Parkway just west of Kellerhals Lane. Fort Oglethorpe still needs to approve the deal.

The improvements will make it easier for drivers to reach what Armour said in an email will be “quality restaurants” and “high-profile retail” on the north and south sides of Battlefield Parkway. The intersection will connect to a road leading to a large shopping center set back next to the Fort Oglethorpe Walmart. Armour’s development will have a total of roughly 150,000 square feet of retail space.

Armour has signed a guarantee that his Battlefield Parkway project will generate at least $700,000 in sales and property taxes within seven years, Catoosa County Attorney Chad Young said.

“If not, he will reimburse the county and the city the difference,” Young said. “He … put his money where his mouth is.”

The county and city already set aside $500,000 in money from their general funds for the intersection, but that only covered the roadwork, including cutting through the median. The additional $200,000 that Armour requested will pay for the traffic light and engineering costs.

The Fort Oglethorpe City Council will consider Armour’s request for another $100,000, Mayor Lynn Long said.

“I will have it on the agenda on the first meeting in January, so the new council will deal with that,” he said.

Nobody likes the idea of subsidizing businesses, Long said.

“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “Look at the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County. Look at the state of Tennessee and Volkswagen.”

“It’s sad,” Long said, “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Also at its meeting Tuesday, the county development authority signed a letter of intent to spend $1.5 million to improve some 20 acres that Armour is developing next to Costco alongside Interstate 75. In exchange, Armour promised that construction would start no later than Dec. 31, 2015, on a retail development that would produce $20 million in sales and employ between 50 and 80 full- and part-time employees. If taxes generated by the development don’t cover the county’s expense, the letter of intent calls for Armour to cover the difference.

The county and Fort Oglethorpe previously helped subsidize Armour’s Costco project by spending $4.5 million to move about 1 million cubic yards of dirt and rock from the warehouse club site on Cloud Springs Road, expecting to get the money back through taxes — though there was no agreement to that effect.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfree or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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