Pinnacle developer pushes bill to block businesses from moving to Boones Creek district

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- As leaders continue to rally around regionalism, one of the area’s most powerful political figures is working on a bill that would prevent a potential Boones Creek development from poaching businesses from The Pinnacle in Bristol, Tennessee.

Not everyone is sold on the idea.

The move is in response to a law, pushed by Rep. Matthew Hill, Rep. Micah Van Huss, and Sen. Rusty Crowe, which created tax incentives similar to those that paved the way for The Pinnacle. It allowed Johnson City Commissioners to designate a retail development district in which the city can retain 75 percent of the state’s share of local option sales tax collected to attract new businesses.

Rep. Hill said the law is an example of a growing attitude among local leaders that favors collaboration, rather than competition, between communities to recruit retailers.

“The Boones Creek Project is a wonderful example of regionalism,” said Hill in a January 2 meeting 

The Commission could finalize a 940-acre boundary in Boones Creek off Interstate 26 at Exit 17 as early as Thursday.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy Hopes big names like Macy’s and Costco consider moving in.

“New retail is the key, obviously relocating existing retail isn’t going to accomplish anything,” Grandy said.

Still, the developer of The Pinnacle, Steve Johnson, appears to have concerns about the competition. He reportedly hired former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to draw up legislation that would keep businesses from moving from The Pinnacle to the proposed Boones Creek site. It would prevent businesses from taking advantage of tax breaks twice.

“When The Pinnacle was being developed, I don’t remember anyone in our community complaining about that development taking place so I’ll say it’s a little bit disappointing,” Grandy said in reaction to the possible legislation.

Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson said he’d be ok with the bill if it protected all development zones and allowed for second locations of existing stores.

He also expressed frustration with the proposal.

“I find it kind of curious that The Pinnacle is looking for protection yet, when The Pinnacle was developed, Kingsport nor Johnson City was afforded any sort of protection to keep stores from being relocated from existing locations,” Peterson said.

Sen. Crowe said he’s yet to read a draft of the bill but, from what he knows so far, it’s a good step towards regionalism. He said it prevents businesses from pitting one community against another.

The current law already has some protection built-in. It prohibits the city from incentivizing existing retailers within a 15-mile radius in the same state to relocate to the new development district unless the business commits to expand its sales floor space by at least 35 percent.

When asked if shuffling stores from one retail district to another is counterproductive to regionalism, Peterson said, “When almost a third of the Johnson City budget is comprised from the proceeds of sales tax it makes it very challenging to be cooperative with other entities when you start talking about losing sales tax dollars.”

Ramsey was not immediately available for comment.

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