Hamilton County Commission OKs tax break for Patten Towers renovation

Hamilton County Commission OKs tax break for Patten Towers renovation

January 16th, 2019 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

Patten Towers, left, is undergoing a $25 million purchase and renovation. At right is the Edney Building and a portion of Warehouse Row.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

This story was updated Jan. 16, 2019, at 6:23 p.m. with more information.

Apparently feeling generous Wednesday, Hamilton County commissioners voted to approve a 25-year tax break for renovation of the Patten Towers low-income housing site and to match $120,000 in grants for offender mental health programs.

The new owner of the 111-year-old former hotel at Georgia Avenue and 11th Street already had won Chattanooga City Council approval for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that will finance $10 million in upgrades.

The commission vote Wednesday was 8-1, with Commissioner Tim Boyd repeating his objections from last week to PILOT tax breaks for residential developments. He noted that John Shepherd, representing the Patten Towers owners, said they needed tax relief because the state of Tennessee taxes the value of federal low-income housing tax credits that will help pay for the work.

Boyd said if developers hate the state tax, they need to lobby the Tennessee General Assembly to get rid of it rather than "pick off counties one at a time" for tax credits that squeeze local property owners.

And although he voted to spend $120,000 from the county's' $100 million general fund to match grants given to the Frequent Users Systems Engagement program by local foundations and CHI Memorial Hospital, Boyd said the commission needs to keep an eye on the county's wallet.

He said he doesn't know what county taxpayers' share of an incentives package will be for the new Volkswagen line of electric vehicles announced Tuesday.

"If there's another tax increase coming, that's not going to set well with me at all," he said.

The FUSE match was proposed by Commissioner David Sharpe, who praised the program under development by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, local medical and mental health providers and the Chattanooga Housing Authority as "one of the better things we have going here in Hamilton County."

The concept is that providing stable housing and a suite of services to people with mental illness will help them stay out of hospital emergency rooms and jails. Last week, the sheriff's office said the project missed out on a five-year, $3.3 million federal grant that would have funded mental health and medical providers in what's called an assertive community treatment team.

Sharpe asked commissioners to match local donations including $10,000 from UNUM; $20,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga; $25,000 from the Weldon F. Osborne Foundation; $25,000 from CHI Memorial Hospital; and $40,000 from the Maclellan Foundation.

The only no vote came from Commissioner Greg Martin, who said he supports the idea but believes it should be done as part of the annual budget process starting in a few weeks.

'I don't see any urgency right now," Martin said.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.