he Johnson City Development Authority faces at least one more hurdle before it can proceed with its project to bring Northeast State Community College into the Downtown Centre.
In its plan, the JCDA is purchasing the Downtown Centre from Washington County for $1 million, leasing it to Northeast State and also contributing $1 million for interior renovations, with both expenditures financed through a $2.192 million loan from Eastman Credit Union to be paid back using tax-increment financing funds.
But in order to use TIF money to fund any interior renovations, the JCDA must add an “urban renewal” component to its Redevelopment Plan, which did not include that distinction before. Any changes to the redevelopment plan must survive a public hearing and be approved by the Washington County Commission and the Johnson City Commission. As of Friday, the one piece missing was approval from the City Commissioners, who instead decided to defer the vote at their Thursday evening meeting.
“So as we consider any board action today, we should remember the Northeast State project cannot move forward all the way through if there is no urban redevelopment plan in place,” JCDA Chairman Robert White told board members on Friday.
Still, at their Friday meeting, the JCDA board members did proceed with accepting the purchase of the Downtown Centre, the loan from ECU, and the lease agreement with Northeast State — all three items contingent on each other, and on the urban renewal component being added into the Redevelopment Plan. The closing documents, loan papers and lease agreement will all be signed simultaneously when the last hurdle is jumped, JCDA officials said.
To streamline the process of the redevelopment plan changes, the JCDA decided Friday to submit a plan to the city in which the only change is the addition of the urban renewal component, as most of the commissioners’ hesitation did not come from that piece, but rather from other more detailed changes to the plan.
“They have more concerns about how the plan needs to be revamped,” White said. “We’ve asked them to consider just the urban renewal component, and then go back later to the rewrite, which could be a longer process.”
City Commissioners have an agenda meeting on Sept. 12, with the next commission meeting Sept. 15.
The JCDA is currently checking to see if they remove some of the changes from the plan, but do not add any, if the plan will need to go through another public hearing and Washington County Commission approval process again as well.