East Ridge firefighters and other community members check out the renderings for the new proposed Red Wolves professional soccer complex that was announced during a press conference in April at East Ridge City Hall.

The East Ridge City Council took advantage of an amendment passed May 15 by the Tennessee General Assembly to make changes in the city's Border Region District. The council passed a resolution last Thursday that took 30 acres out of the city's border region district and added back 15 acres elsewhere.

"We needed to act on some adjustments that we believe will benefit the district," said City Manager Chris Dorsey.

Under the Border Region Retail Tourism Development District Act, cities that border another state can create a retail tourism district not to exceed 950 acres within city limits. The designation allows cities like East Ridge to collect a higher share of sales tax revenue generated inside the district. That money is then used to pay for the costs of any economic development project in the district.

East Ridge has received $6,662,491 in additional sales tax revenue since the district was established in 2012, primarily due to the development around Bass Pro Shops at Exit 1 off Interstate 75. Dorsey said the city expects to receive $2,271,258 in border region tax revenue in the fiscal 2019-20.

Adjusting the borders of the special tax district, the city took out two locations that were formerly pharmacies that have now closed, the Rite Aid and Kingwood Pharmacy. Dorsey explained that retail locations such as these have established sales tax levels that would make it difficult to reach the higher threshold required by the border region legislation.

The city put in what was formally the Tri-State Lanes on Ringgold Road, property near the new Exit 1 off-ramp and property the city owns near Germantown Road.

"The border region district is the most important economic driver in the city," Dorsey said. "It gives us a leg up on Chattanooga and North Georgia in what we can offer developers. We can now bring things to East Ridge that would have never happened before. It is a real game-changer."


Red Wolves Development Approved

Also on June 27, East Ridge held a required public hearing before the final rezoning of 61 acres needed for a $125 million mixed-use development planned by Utah businessman Bob Martino that includes a 5,500-seat stadium for the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer team. The council voted unanimously to rezone the vacant parcel at the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 24.

The action was the final step for Martino, who owns the Red Wolves, before closing on the property's purchase and breaking ground. He said before last Thursday's regular council meeting that he expects to close on the property in the next few weeks with groundbreaking 30-60 days later.

The proposed project is the largest in city history. Plans for the wooded, vacant lot include 400 apartment and condominium units, 375 hotel rooms, 475,000 square feet of commercial space including the stadium, and a network of walking and nature trails that could connect under I-75 with Camp Jordan.

Citizens who spoke at the public hearing expressed the same concerns regarding the project's impact on flooding, traffic, noise and designated wetlands that the council heard at the first reading of the rezoning ordinance on June 13. Two citizens, including the owner of the new Champy's Chicken to be built in East Ridge, spoke in favor of the development while four raised points of contention about the project.

"We are going to follow the law and regulations," Martino said. "It's not like we are going to just flood somebody's property. We have a great team that is looking at all the requirements, and we will work through all the issues. Our engineers have been down this road before."

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