Model Mill TIF deal clears Washington Co. Budget Committee

Gary B. Gray • Updated Oct 11, 2016 at 3:26 PM

The Washington County Budget Committee on Tuesday approved a nearly $1.2 million tax increment financing incentive plan for the former Model Mill, a site expected to play a key role in development along the new West Walnut Street District.

“I think this is one of the most important projects ever between Johnson City and Washington County,” said Budget Committee member Dr. Paul Stanton. “It will change the landscape forever.”

Washington County Economic Development Council Downtown Development Manager Dianna Cantler and Johnson City Development Authority TIF Advisory Committee Chair Craig Torbett were on hand to lay out the details.

The plan would provide $1.195 million to R&G Ventures to rehabilitate the historic flour mill. The JCDA would administer the 20-year incentive program in which borrowed funds would be paid back by capturing new taxes generated by the increase in property values after development.

The program would be split into two phases. The first phase would only concern renovation of the building’s “footprint” — the 40,000 square feet of blighted floor space in the mill.

JCDA committee members recommended funding the project using the full allowable amount of the tax revenue increase, especially in light of the revenue-generating possibilities with a new tenant on the corridor between East Tennessee State University and downtown Johnson City.

R&G principal Grant Summers, president of Summers-Taylor Inc., said the second phase would involve outparcels. The company plans to buy the neighboring Mize Farm & Garden Supply building and build smaller spaces for businesses along State of Franklin Road.

The second phase meets fewer qualifying criteria that would increase incentives, so the committee recommended funding that portion of the project using 50 percent of the captured collections increase.

The land would be subdivided to split the physical structure from the rest of the surrounding property before the program is put in motion, and part of the incentive would immediately be used to buy the property, Cantler said.

“The Walnut Street overlay brings the codes up to be more in line with urban development, and it will be a multi-year project,” she said.

Summers has said that with remediation of the designated brownfield site (previously used for industrial purposes) and the cost of rehabilitating the large structure, the TIF funding barely allows the company to break even on its $7 million expected investment. The 50 percent funding on the outparcels should help make the project worthwhile.

“That’s $7 million on the tax rolls,” Torbett said.

In July, Summers-Taylor announced a contract with the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the current mill owner, to buy the entire property for $570,000. The company plans to move its headquarters there. 

The TIF proposal still must be approved by the Washington County and Johnson City commissions.

County Mayor Dan Eldridge also announced on Tuesday the county should receive a storm water permit any day from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Once received, Thomas Construction Co. can begin its $1.6 million construction of two new pad sites and a new access road at the county’s industrial park in Telford.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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