Commission approves creation of TIF district to promote economic development

Published 9:31 am Thursday, March 22, 2018

A proposal to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to help promote economic development in Elizabethton is one step closer to reality after the measure received overwhelming support from the Carter County Commission.

During the Commission’s meeting Monday night, commissioners voted 21-2 with one abstaining to approve a resolution to work with the City of Elizabethton to create the TIF district.

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Elizabethton Interim City Manager Jon Hartman spoke to the Commission during the meeting regarding the proposed TIF program. He said the TIF program would help promote economic growth by freezing the tax assessed property value for a period of time which would allow developers to use the money they save in taxes to further invest in the property. At the end of the set period, the property would then be taxed at the new assessed value based on the improvements to the property.

“As the property develops, you are increasing the value,” Hartman said.

However, to qualify, developers must apply the money saved in very specific ways to remain part of the program.

The TIF program is being established with certain thresholds, Hartman said, which are geared toward attracting larger developers to the area.

“Currently we have a potential hotel project,” Hartman said, adding establishment of the TIF program “will be key” to getting the hotel project underway.

The TIF program will be a partnership between Carter County and the City of Elizabethton, with the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency serving as the administering agency for the program. Developers wishing to participate in the TIF will have to go through an application process for approval, Hartman said.

“There will be a committee that is formed to vet the projects to make sure the numbers are good, that the project is viable and it fits the overall master plan,” Hartman said.

During his presentation, Hartman answered questions from commissioners regarding the program and its potential benefits.

Commissioner Charles VonCannon, who owns the old Bemberg property, noted that he owns property within the proposed TIF district and supports the project.

The Commission then voted 22-2 to approve the resolution to join with the City in creating the TIF program. Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Dr. Robert Acuff, Nancy Brown, Mike Hill, Al Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Ronnie Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, Sonja Culler, Ray Lyons, Scott Simerly, Robert Carroll, Kelly Collins, and Cody McQueen voted in favor of the measure. Commissioners John Lewis and Larry “Doc” Miller opposed creating the TIF program.

After that vote, Commissioner Danny Ward stood and challenged the vote, stating that since VonCannon already said he owned property that could be affected by the TIF he should abstain from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

“Good call,” VonCannon said in response to Ward’s challenge.

Commission Chairman Acuff then consulted with County Attorney Josh Hardin who recommended the Commission vote again due to the challenge and noted conflict of interest.

On the second vote the matter passed by a margin of 21-2-1, with the only change being that VonCannon abstained from the vote.

With the county’s approval, the TIF proposal will now head to the Elizabethton City Council for approval. Hartman told commissioners the Council had indicated they would hold a special called meeting to approve the TIF once it passed the county. From there, the TIF proposal will move on to the EHDA Board for the final approval needed before work can begin instituting the program.