The municipal tax district for the Lookouts stadium plan is not subject to the same requirements as when the private sector proposes one

Note: This story was updated at 9:15 p.m. to clarify the purpose of the resolution presented to City Council on Tuesday.

The Chattanooga City Council will consider a resolution on Tuesday disclosing the exemptions the city has from the requirements for the creation of a special tax district, a measure proposed to help fund a new stadium for the minor league baseball team of the municipality.

The requirements apply when businesses seek to form such a neighborhood, but by policy do not apply when the city seeks one.

The requirements in question include a minimum application fee of $1,500, submission of a formal application, and formation of a five-person review committee to evaluate the proposal.

Jermaine Freeman, senior adviser for economic opportunities under Mayor Tim Kelly, said the funding plan was already receiving enough scrutiny from officials without following the process designed to review applications that the city receives private promoters.

Approval steps that are taken include appearing before city and county Industrial Development Boards, which is not normally required for similar applications. The project is also subject to approval by City Council and the Hamilton County Commission.

“When you have a big, complex project like this where there are a lot of unknowns and a lot of variables, the city just needs maximum flexibility,” Freeman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone.

Kelly and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced plans June 30 to build a $79.4 million multipurpose stadium for Chattanooga Lookouts on the devastated site of the Wheland Foundry in the South District of city, which would be funded by 30-year revenue bonds issued by a newly formed sports authority.

Through a method called tax increment financing, a portion of the new property tax revenue generated on the land surrounding the stadium would pay for 58% of the cost of the project.

But Helen Burns Sharp, founder of the nonprofit Accountability for Taxpayer Money, said the city’s review process plays an important role in asking questions about projects that involve municipal taxes.

“I don’t consider myself a ‘critic’ of this project,” she told the Times Free Press via email, stressing the opportunity it has to revitalize a run-down area of ​​the city and other positive factors. “But how this deal is structured can have a major impact on future property tax revenues for services like fire, police, streets, schools, parks and affordable housing for the next 30 years.”

Sharp said one of the downsides of not following the policy is that it deprives citizens of the ability to review an application on the city’s website. Completing an application would also help answer questions about what is fundamentally a complex project, she said, including how officials plan to handle environmental cleanup.

She wonders if elected leaders should take more time to develop agreements with key players involved in the effort, such as a community benefits agreement, which could ensure tangible benefits for local workers and the inclusion of affordable housing. .

“I’m not saying the city didn’t review my questions about ratepayer protection and community benefits,” she said. “Just ask if we’ve done everything we can do at this point.”

Chattanooga leaders adopted a policy in 2015 outlining the process for approving requests for tax increment funding. Freeman said the city passed those rules to put in place local safeguards for private development — rules that didn’t exist at the time — but those procedures don’t apply to city-initiated projects. or those made on behalf of the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Instead, the policy states that the city will follow procedures deemed “appropriate in the circumstances.” The city already follows state laws, officials noted.

Fundamentally, Freeman said, a tax increment financing plan initiated by a public entity like a city or county is very different from one proposed by a private developer.

“People need to understand that this was never meant to be a process to box in the city,” he said of the city’s politics. “It was meant to be a process that would help us review TIF requests from private developers.”

More information about the project can be found at The Chattanooga City Council meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the John P. Franklin, Sr. City Council Building, 1000 Lindsay St.

Panel schedule

Members of the Hamilton County Industrial Development Board gave their thumbs up to the proposed stadium project at a July 21 meeting, but it still requires approval from a few more panels. Here’s the timeline officials outlined earlier this month:

— July 27: Hamilton County Commission Agenda Session.

– 1st of August : Public hearing before the City of Chattanooga Industrial Development Board.

— August 3: Hamilton County Commission tax district vote and creation of a new joint athletic authority.

— August 9: Chattanooga City Council tax district vote and creation of a new joint athletic authority.

Contact David Floyd at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.