Funding question stalls plans for Lookout Mountain, Ga., town center

Funding question stalls plans for Lookout Mountain, Ga., town center

April 5th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

This rendering by architectural designer Garth Brown shows the town center proposed for Lookout Mountain, Ga.

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LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. - "I can't spend any more time and money on this without knowing ... ," Developer Jimmy Chapin said.

"That we can pay for this," City Councilwoman Beth Soloff said, finishing Chapin's thought.

That exchange summed up a work session that the Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council held Thursday night to discuss Chapin's proposal to build new retail, office and city buildings where the aging City Hall now stands.

The meeting opened with talk about signing a contract with Chapin.

However, council was undecided on fundamental questions, such as whether to lease the new City Hall, fire and police station from Chapin -- or to pay Chapin roughly $1.5 million to construct the municipal buildings that the city would own outright.

"What makes more sense, y'all?" Councilman Sandy Gothard asked. Gothard, who's an attorney, had a list of questions about the proposed contract.

Soloff, a city planning commissioner who owns a commercial real estate business, was appointed in March to replace Councilman Blair Ramey, who resigned when he moved out of the town.

"How are we going to pay for it?" she asked council members, adding that she was new to council and had missed previous discussions. "I don't see anything that's been put down in writing."

Councilman Jim Sabourin said that at a previous meeting, a roomful of residents didn't object to the idea of higher property taxes.

"They were OK with it, as long as we believed it added value," Sabourin said.

At a meeting last May, Mayor Bill Glascock told a crowd of 80 people at a City Council meeting that taxes could increase by 17 percent for 20 years to fund $1.2 million worth of buildings that the city then proposed to build on its own.

"I'm saying raising taxes, OK? That's what we're doing ... in order to fund this," Glascock said then.

On Thursday night, Glascock suggested that Soloff, Gothard and Earl Carstens, chairman of the city's planning commission, sit down with Chapin to discuss financing and share their findings at City Council's next meeting.

Glascock also mentioned the special purpose local option sales tax that will go before Walker County voters in 2014 as a potential funding source for the new City Hall, police and fire station.

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