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Should the state make retail poaching more difficult?

Johnson City Press • Jan 20, 2020 at 7:00 AM

Reported last week by Press staff writer David Floyd, former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, now a lobbyist, has been hired by real estate developer Steve Johnson, the man behind The Pinnacle outdoor shopping center in Bristol, to push for changes to a law passed last year that allows Johnson City to incentivize large-scale shopping and entertainment centers.

The Regional Retail Tourism Development Act is very similar to the Border Region Retail Tourism Development Act that helped Johnson build and open his destination shopping experience on the state line in 2014.

The law allows a municipality to capture a portion of the new sales and use taxes generated from a predefined, retail district and use the money to attract additional development to the district.

Currently, both forbid municipalities from giving financial assistance for the location or relocation of existing retailers within a 15-mile radius of the district unless the sales floor space is increased by at least 35% from the existing store.

Ramsey said he’s working to have that provision changed to make it more difficult for nearby businesses to be poached and moved to the retail district laid out in Boones Creek. Ramsey said he’d like to make sure businesses aren’t benefiting twice from tax incentives.

Several stores now open and soon to be opened at The Pinnacle closed nearby stores and opened new, larger stores at Johnson’s shopping center. Larger, national-branded stores opened in Boones Creek could certainly offer competition for his Bristol development.

Others in Johnson City are worried a huge Boones Creek development could hurt the downtown business district or The Mall at Johnson City. Contrary to malls in the other Tri-Cities, even with the closure of anchor tenant Sears, Johnson City’s mall seems well-occupied and visited.

With a retail destination still years in the making, we thought it an opportune time to ask our readers. Should the state make retail poaching more difficult? Will toughening the law make Boones Creek’s development more difficult? What changes would you suggest for the Regional Retail Tourism Development Act?

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