The City Council on Tuesday night narrowly voted to approve Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a project that includes a "small town" on Aetna Mountain above Cummings Cove in Lookout Valley.
Voting in favor were Manny Rico, Jack Benson, Russell Gilbert, Carol Berz and Pam Ladd.
Opposed were Deborah Scott and Peter Murphy.
Andre McGary recused himself, saying more time was needed for the council to study the issue and get public input. Sally Robinson abstained because her son-in-law, Mike Mallen, is an attorney for developers Doug Stein and Gary and Bobby Chazen.
The developers want to use $9 million in proceeds from new taxes generated in the project area to build a new road up the mountain and onto a town center. It will also pay for a sewer line.
Mr. Stein said there will be no driveways off the new road and the developers will pay for the rest.
Councilwoman Scott said the vote was opening the door for many other developers with similar projects.
Councilman Benson said he welcomed such projects, saying it should bring great benefit to the community.
Councilman Rico said he "could not see a downside" to the venture, saying the developers were taking all the risk.
Councilman Murphy said it is not in the best interest of his urban district to be promoting suburban sprawl.
The TIF was approved by the City Bond Board and the County Commission earlier. It now goes back to the bond board for the issuance of the bonds.
Mr. Stein said the project is 90 days behind the original timetable.
Gary Chazen said, “This is the beginning of a 20-year plan for this special place. We have over 3,000 acres involved in this project; however, we will only develop 1,500 over the life of the project. The rest of the land will be conveyed to either the Tennessee River Gorge Trust in partnership with or the Trust for Public Land. We believe this is the highest and best use for the property.”
Mr. Chazen said the $500 million project would be approximately the same size as the town of Lookout Mountain, Tn. He said the project will provide a Village Center, which is currently under construction, as well as a restaurant and banquet facility; office park; town center with retail; corporate retreat and training center; high end assisted living; public recreation facilities; community and business support facilities; and, commercial spaces along with approximately 1,500 homes built over the life of the project.
Developer Stein said, “This is the most carefully comprehensively planned project East Tennessee has ever seen. Great care has been taken to preserve natural resources and build in an environmentally responsible conscious manner.”
The property was annexed by the city of Chattanooga in 2010. Attorney Mallen of Miller & Martin said, “Had the City Industrial Development Board, Hamilton County Commission and Chattanooga City Council not approved the TIF, the project would have taken much longer to launch. Their approval not only allows a construction project to move forward, but also accelerates job growth and significant additional tax revenues for the city and the county.”
“This is an exciting time in Hamilton County,” said Gary Chazen. “We have the ability to create a community that will make a difference for generations to come. It’s a responsibility we take extremely seriously.”
He said regular updates will be provided to the public throughout the various phases of the project