Local economic development officials could be close to a deal to secure 97 acres of land intended for a new industrial park in Gray.
Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller told the governing board of the county’s designated development agency Thursday that a draft contract with the land’s owner, Danny Karst, has been written and is being reviewed by the city’s and county’s attorneys.
“We want to make sure the city commission and county commission are comfortable as we move forward and look to try to establish a business park there, and also to look at terms as we look for some support from those bodies as well for infrastructure,” Miller said.
After years of eyeing the tract, which is convenient to Interstate 26 and rail access, Miller said Karst has agreed to immediately sell 48 acres of the land, donate another 38 and gradually transfer another 15 over a four-year period.
With cooperation from the municipalities, Miller hopes Johnson City will donate 93 acres nearby it already owns, and then the council will work to secure another 80, putting the total area at 270 acres.
In April, Miller said city leaders seemed receptive to the idea of transferring the land to grow the park and in assisting the extension of infrastructure lines into the park.
Under his plan, the county would be responsible for extending or improving roads into the park.
Last month, Miller asked the Johnson City Power Board for a $350,000 contribution to help the WCEDC raise the $766,000 needed for the initial land purchase near the Appalachian Fairgrounds.
Facing scrutiny for an economic development contribution to East Tennessee State University for its planned fine and performing arts center, the Power Board’s Board of Directors were non-committal to Miller's request.
He said Thursday the council will likely not have enough capital to buy all the Karst land, and could need some additional funding from the municipalities.
“I think it’s in our best interest, we certainly want to be good partners with them in whatever the agreement ends up being,” Miller said of the review of the draft document. “It’s probably the right step to make sure we have this right before we go ahead and execute the contract.”
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