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Boones Creek complaint removed from court docket; plaintiff still pursuing action

David Floyd • Feb 3, 2020 at 8:32 PM

A legal complaint filed to delay the Johnson City Commission’s approval of the boundaries of a 950-acre incentive district in Boones Creek was removed from Washington County Chancery Court’s Feb. 3 docket.

A court date had originally been set for 9 a.m. Feb. 3.

The plaintiff, Johnson City attorney John Wood of Wood Patent Law, said Monday he’s still evaluating what the next best step is in the case. One option would be to amend his complaint to question the validity of the city’s action.

“I don’t think the case has gotten any weaker,” he said.

Wood claimed in a Jan. 16 court filing that the City Commission approved an incomplete first reading of the district boundaries and that the city altered the ordinance between second and third reading. He also writes that there has been “ongoing confusion” about the geographic parameters in the legislation that authorized the district, which Gov. Bill Lee signed into law in May.

Chancery Court Clerk and Master Sarah Lawson said a Jan. 21 order from Chancellor John Rambo advised the plaintiff to request a hearing. As of early afternoon on Jan. 31, Lawson said Wood had not done so.

In the order, Rambo said a summons would need to be served on the city before either party can request a court date. He also said Wood did not indicate in his filing whether he wanted a restraining order, temporary injunction or a permanent injunction.

Rambo said there’s nothing in the record that indicates notice of a request for temporary injunction or a restraining order had been provided to the defendant, which is required by state civil procedure.

Wood told commissioners and city staff by email on Jan. 16, less than two hours before the beginning of their regularly scheduled meeting, that he had filed a complaint and request for injunctive relief in Washington County Chancery Court seeking to delay that evening’s vote.

Wood said the motivation behind the complaint and request for injunctive relief was to forestall the vote, but now that the borders have been approved, the question at hand is whether the ordinance is valid.

City Manager Pete Peterson has said he has no doubt the ordinance was approved in the appropriate fashion, which he said is supported by case law.

The Johnson City Commission approved on third and final reading Jan. 16 the boundaries of a 950-acre incentive district around Exit 17 in Boones Creek, which would allow developers to apply for incentives to pay for expenses like property acquisition, design, engineering or construction associated with projects in the district. The district must now receive final approval from the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

The incentives would be funded entirely through a portion of the state sales tax revenue generated in the district. The city would distribute the funding through individual agreements with developers.

Interlocutory Order by David Floyd on Scribd

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