EDITOR’S NOTE: On Monday of last week, the East Ridge Industrial Development Board voted unanimously to allow millions of dollars of future state sales tax money to be pocketed by the owners of a liquor store that is under construction. The following Thursday, the City Council approved an agreement under the Border Region Act that will allow JPP LLC to potentially recoup its $3.5 million in construction costs for the store.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Could you kindly tell the taxpayers of East Ridge why you needlessly gave away potentially $7 million of their money to two liquor stores under construction on Ringgold Road? I know the giveaway was under the auspices of the Border Region Act, of which much has been said over the last five years.
But why, why, did the city believe it was necessary to incentivize two projects in which 18 different businesses were climbing all over one another to have the right to pursue? For crying out loud, there was so much interest that the City had to hold a lottery to pick the big winners. To top it off, one of the liquor stores – the one down on the corner of Spring Creek Road – was well under construction. The other (near John Ross Road) had already broken ground.
Can any of you explain the rationale for this?
I was told by one city councilperson that the city MUST enter into a development agreement to receive the state tax money, which amount’s to 4.12 percent. Now this person may have not articulated their understanding of how the city benefits from the BRA. Yes, the city must file a request with the state for reimbursement. But, it’s my understanding we’ve already filed for $20 million and there’s more to come. The $7 million in state sales tax granted to the two liquor store owners could have been captured by the city, then perhaps used for expenses the city (read taxpayers) will incur on this “multi-modal project” on Ringgold Road. Cost of that bad boy is going to exceed $10 million: Write it down.
No, in its eminent wisdom, the Industrial Development Board and the City Council saw fit to give that money to businesses that for all intent and practical purposes have been given the right to print money via their near-monopoly on the sale of booze in Pioneer Country.
I just don’t understand it. And maybe that’s the real issue … the Mayor and Council may not have a full understanding of all the moving parts of this complicated piece of legislation that was designed for the Bristol area by then Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey.
You see, East Ridge horned its way in on this deal courtesy of former City Attorney John Anderson. Anderson was the guy who envisioned our city’s border region district expanding from what is now Jordan Crossing (home of Bass Pro) to encompass most of the commercial corridor of Ringgold Road. And that has been something of a challenge, hasn’t it?
Understand this: the City of Bristol took a 200-acre parcel of undeveloped land on the border of Tennessee and Virginia and installed utilities and built roads making it site ready for retailers to come in. Bristol spent tens of millions of dollars of its own money to accomplish this. When retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshall’s and Bass Pro opened, the state tax money (remember the 4.12 percent?) went to Bristol to reimburse it for its cost for site preparation.
That’s not what happened in good ol’ East Ridge. No sir. In August of 2014 the city handed over a total of $4 million to the developers of Jordan Crossing to build Bass Pro, what’s termed a “triggering event” in the BRA. The City of East Ridge turned that into the state for reimbursement. Last time I checked, the state rejected that submission. It was appealed and I don’t know the outcome because getting your hands on the Border Region Act state audit through East Ridge City Hall is let’s say, problematic.
Oh, the City of East Ridge is getting reimbursed. The first year was about $800K, it grew to more than $1 million the second year and it is currently about $2.3 million. In 2017, when Zack Peterson of the Times Free Press wrote this article. the total reimbursement was almost $4.5 million.
I remember for several years when optimism was running so high on the council dais, there was hardly any city expenditure that wasn’t going to be reimbursed by the state. Tell me I’m wrong.
Answer this question: what investment did the city have in the two liquor store projects? None. We don’t have any skin in the game there, do we? How can we be reimbursed, then? I’m sure that the brain trust inside City Hall has something figured out which it is spouting to the council members.
Why don’t you, our elected officials, spell it out. I’m here to tell you, there are a lot of people on social media – some of them undoubtedly proxies for elected officials, others who are just trying to figure it all out – who have no real understanding of how this thing really works.
Please explain it to us. The future of the city depends on some really sound, conservative principles here.
I invite each and every one of you to submit a column to East Ridge News Online specifically stating why the city entered into the agreement with the liquor stores, and generally how the city benefits with all the new development coming here, in regard to the Border Region.
This could be a real opportunity for the mayor and board to impress upon your constituents, the taxpayers of East Ridge, that all of you truly do know what you’re doing.