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Johnson City Commission OKs allowing TIF funds for work on building interiors

October 7th, 2011 10:49 am by Gary B. Gray

The City Commission unanimously approved an amendment Thursday to the city’s Redevelopment Plan for the Downtown Redevelopment Districts that adds an urban renewal component to allow tax increment financing to help fund the interior rehabilitation of structures.

Of particular focus and immediacy is the Downtown Centre, and the impetus behind the amendment corresponds with the Johnson City Development Authority’s effort to purchase the building from Washington County.

“This only incorporates an element to the 2006 plan that adds an urban renewal component,” said Todd Smith, Johnson City business management analyst. “Ultimately, it will be overseen by the JCDA. Obviously, Northeast State (the potential tenant) will have a lot of say in how this goes. Northeast State will likely hire and pay for an architect. They also plan to put about $500,000 toward the renovation project.”

Vice Mayor Phil Carriger told JCDA Board Chairman Robert White that he had some concerns, including the question of which entity will be responsible for approving the design and hiring the contractor.

“My concern is, what if Northeast State moves out?” Carriger asked. “My concern — as a concerned taxpayer — is that we don’t end up remodeling twice.”

White said the JCDA will own the building and that the group will oversee any and all renovations.

“Northeast State will keep the JCDA informed, and we will not approve any invoices for renovations unless they are first reviewed by the JCDA,” White said.

The urban renewal component identifies four focus area of redevelopment: infrastructure, public venues, commercial development and special events. It also adds a four-year financial plan for implementation and removes the third-party request for proposals process from redevelopment projects.

Meanwhile, commissioners decided to defer a vote on the adoption of a newly developed annexation policy that includes strategies such as increasing vacant land that can be developed, housing stock and total assessed property values, as well as communication with property owners and compliance with state laws.

The document’s proper name is the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission and City Commission Annexation Policy.

City Planner Angie Charles told commissioners that since 1985, the area of the city has more than doubled in size and that the policy is intended to be used by the city as a guidance tool.

Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin, who said he favors the policy, pointed out that portions of the document needed a rewrite for clarity. Other commissioners agreed to take the time to tighten up the document for the purposes of semantics and legal clarity.

The policy follows a recent workshop at which city officials discussed the planned annexation of a section of the Bobby Hicks Highway corridor starting from just northeast of the Gray Fossil Museum parking lot past Interstate 26 to a point about 4.5 miles northwest on State Route 75.

Commissioners also unanimously approved an extension of the 1 percent property tax discount until Oct. 14. The city was not able to process bills before the end of the September discount period due to the state’s delay in sending the city the 2001 property tax billing file.

“Repeated and assertive efforts with the state’s Division of Property Assessments have yielded nothing but frustration,” Finance Director Janet Jennings reported to commissioners. “Washington County officials even made attempts to assist us with the state. These attempts proved fruitless, as well. The billing delay not only impacts our cash flows negatively, but also impact the September discount enjoyed by our taxpayers.”

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