More than half of a parcel of state-owned land that East Ridge city officials want to buy and sell cannot be developed because it is too swampy, a recent state appraisal shows.
But city officials still hope to purchase the land and flip it to a developer who plans to turn the usable half into a 329,912-square-foot retail site currently called Jordan Crossing.
The state appraisal, which East Ridge commissioned last October, prices the 27-acre parcel of land, located off Interstate 75 at the Ringgold Road exit, at $107,000.
Half the land is in a flood way, meaning it cannot be developed at all. The other half is in a flood plain, which means the land can be built up after certain flood-prevention guidelines are met.
"The property obviously has flood-plain issues, so we're doing our due diligence to see how we want to move ahead with that," said developer Matt Wood with the Wolftever Co., which has been seeking the property since 2010. The company is moving forward with the plan, though the layout of the proposed development is shifting with the appraisal, he said.
He said it is still unclear whether the company will purchase about 17 additional acres of city-owned land near the site or the property currently occupied by America's Best Value Inn, both of which were included in initial development renderings.
The city has extended its letter of intent with Wolftever to July 31, by which time Wood said he will have an answer for the city about the property.
So far, the city has shelled out about $7,000 in legal fees and has spent $2,300 for the land's appraisal. If the city buys the property, additional legal fees are expected, plus about $6,000 for a real estate transaction fee.
City Manager Tim Gobble estimated that the city's total selling price of the state land to Wolftever would be about $125,000 with the legal and appraisal expenses, which Wolftever has agreed to cover if it buys the land.
But the process is still a gamble. If Wolftever decides not to go ahead with the purchase, the company is not obligated to help the city cover those expenses.
"If the developer decides not to go through with this, it is my understanding that the city will have to eat all that cost," Gobble said.
The prospect of a large-scale retail development such as Jordan Crossing recently has become even more attractive to city officials on top of its estimated $2.17 million annual sales tax revenues.
A recent law passed by the Tennessee Legislature law allows cities within a certain distance from a stateline and interstate exit to create a retail district where the city can claim 75 percent of all sales tax.
East Ridge has applied for "border region" status but is waiting to hear whether state officials have approved the request. Gobble said he has received indication that the city will receive approval soon.