A collection of seven community organizations will host a town hall Saturday to educate local residents on how neighborhoods and citizen groups can push for limits on tax incentives offered to lure business and development to Chattanooga.
The meeting — hosted by Hope for the Inner City, Unity Group of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Area Labor Council, Chattanooga Organized for Action, Glass House Collective, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and Accountability for Taxpayer Money — will be 11 a.m. at Hope for the Inner City. The aim is to explain the ins and outs of community benefit agreements, or CBAs, which have been used in other cities to tie tax breaks to the promise of fulfilling community-determined outcomes.
If you go
What: Town hall meeting: What is a community benefits agreement?
When: Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Hope for the Inner City, 1800 Roanoke Ave.
Who: The meeting, which is open to the public, is being hosted by Hope for the Inner City, Unity Group of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Area Labor Council, Chattanooga Organized for Action, Glass House Collective, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and Accountability for Taxpayer Money.
"Development can be a double-edged sword," the organizations' joint news release stated. "Even when investment spurs job growth, housing options, and other resources, it can also add burdens to a community through increased rents and housing costs, inaccessible workforce hurdles and even costly tax subsidies. Major projects often leave residents wondering how many of the benefits will actually support the surrounding community."
Organizers were drawn together by their frustration over the recent industrial zoning of the former Harriet Tubman site, which was purchased from the Chattanooga Housing Authority by the city of Chattanooga in 2014. City administrators and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce staff have said that light manufacturing is the best use of the site because East Chattanooga needs jobs. They also said businesses hadn't been interested in the site because its zoning had not been changed from residential to industrial.
However, some residents were shocked because the city pushed for the quick rezoning of the site not long after a city-backed, community-wide planning process to determine the future of East Chattanooga, including the Tubman site, had been launched.
Several community groups and residents voiced concern about the move, fearing it would undermine the effort to engage East Chattanooga residents — who, for the most part, have been left out of the city's physical renaissance — in the planning process. Others wanted the city to consider mixed-use zoning, which at one point had been recommended by Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff.
A representative for Stand Up Nashville, a community coalition that fought for and won Nashville's first community benefits agreement last year, will share that group's experience at the town hall. The event also will include a panel discussion about the needs of East Chattanoogans and some potential community benefits residents could push for as the development of the Tubman site unfolds.
"We see the Tubman site as an extremely rare opportunity for the city and community to work together to make sure that public land is used to benefit everyone," the organizations' news release read.
Contact staff writer Joan McClane at jmcclane at firstname.lastname@example.org.