JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Controversy is wrapping around a proposed development near the Boones Creek exit of Interstate 26, but the city manager of Johnson City says this development will be beneficial to the community.
“I think one thing that’s getting lost in some of the conversation going on is the fact that this project, if built and goes forward, will generate $375,000 in local-options sales tax that goes directly to education in Johnson City and Washington County,” Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson told News Channel 11 on Tuesday. “It will also generate over $800,000 in property and sales taxes that will go into the coffers of the general fund of the City of Johnson City for use in other areas of town, such as downtown, subdivisions, street repaving, the replacement of police cars, whatever use that or expense that we incur, that’s over 800,000 new dollars generated by a development out there that meets the minimum requirements of the statute that we can use to incentivize other areas of our community.”
Beyond that, Peterson said, the county will also realize sales taxes for their school system and property taxes for their general fund, as well.
” At a minimum development, the project that could go in at Boones Creek could be worth over $1 million a year in local tax generation for the improvement of the lives of those that live here,” he said.
Though basic site plans have been provided, no official plans have been finalized for the development.
“From what I understand the developers are looking for an experiential shopping and retail and recreation experience that will have shopping, it’ll have things like that will be indoor recreation and outdoor recreation, probably hotels and restaurants, so it’s not going to be just another shopping destination,” Peterson said.
He added that some examples of available activities will be theaters, golf centers, bowling alleys, an indoor climbing wall, some sort of bike park, dog parks, all to make a mixed-use facility.
Peterson told News Channel 11 that there have been discussions about taking some of the property around the Boones Creek exit and building residential structures on it, “much like they’re developing residential properties behind the mall in Johnson City.”
He said that he didn’t think the result of the establishment in this development district will be “your traditional bricks and mortar mall-type shopping experience or strip center.” He said that “it’s going to be something that’s going to involve a lot of quality of life issues because that’s what the public demands today.”
There have been questions posed about why the city decided to allow this development to happen at the Boones Creek exit and not somewhere else in the city, like downtown.
“The statute is very clear that the development must be at a point that’s no further than 20 miles away from two state lines, the Boones Creek exit does qualify for that,” Peterson explained. “There are several other exits along the interstate through that meet that distance requirement, however, they’re almost all built out and in order to get the state incentive, that money is comprised of the incremental sales tax increase after the development is built, so to go to someplace like North Roan Street or the State of Franklin interchange, all those interchanges are already built out so, in order to do anything, you would have to buy out something along the lines of a Sam’s or the Holiday Inn, tear it down, and then build something new, and all you’re going to get for an incentive is the growth in the sales tax, so all the other exits in town really don’t make any sense because they’re already all developed and the Boone’s Creek exit is the only one that is surrounded by green space, or undeveloped property, which makes a project like this financially feasible.”
Peterson said that city officials looked at a number of locations and in the months that have passed since the “Regional Retail Tourism Development District Act” passed, no-one has come forward with a proposal to do something at another location within Johnson City.
Peterson added that several interstate exits in Johnson City, other than the Boones Creek exit, already have economic incentive packages associated with them.
“All of downtown and the Watauga-Unaka area are already part of a TIF district, so there’s economic incentive available to those districts, in addition to whatever else may become available,” he said.
The Johnson City Commission will meet Thursday to vote on defining the boundaries for the Boones Creek development district.