By Meg Dickens
The Mountain City Council expressed discontent after hearing about the county’s decision to “more or less authorize” both county and city tax breaks for five years to local business CrystaLac. Although both entities agree that the decision was legal, Mountain City Council members and city officials at the most recent meeting say that the city should have been consulted beforehand. Now the City Council has postponed its decision whether to support the decision, until a later date.
According to both County Mayor Mike Taylor and City Mayor Jerry Jordan, the decision was made that way because of a specific reason; the city does not have an IDB (Industrial Development Board). The current situation has the City Council considering creating its own board at a concerned citizen’s and Alderman Dustin Shearin’s request. The IDB “has no right to tell the city what its tax rates should be,” according to City Attorney George Wright.
“The mayor was apparently advised that, correctly, the city does not have its own industrial board but the City Council’s approval would be necessary and both of those propositions are correct,” Wright explained. “I understand that the County Commission went ahead and passed this at their last meeting, but this involves an adjustment to the tax rate and that’s an authority that the city cannot delegate to anybody. It’s up to the board if they review this and think it’s a good idea.”
According to both Jordan and Alderman, Lawrence Keeble, this type of abatement has never been done in the city. The City Council reports that they turned down another person that asked for this type of treatment a few months ago as an incentive to open a business in the old Fred’s building. Approving this could “set a precedent you can’t change,” according to Vice Mayor Jerry Horne.
“If we start giving tax abatements, they’ll start flocking in the doors,” said Keeble. “I hate to be stubborn and maybe create a wave with the county, but it is our decision. I’m very reluctant at this point. I would be in favor of an abatement if we had a zone.”
Keeble explained that he would be more open to the idea if there was a specific area in the city for this purpose that was open to more prospective business owners. Those setting up in that area would get a tax break as an incentive to help the area grow. At this time, there is no plan for this type of zone.
“Being young and progressive, I do want to see industry change in our community,” said Dustin Shearin. “I do want to see growth, and if this is a step towards that, I am all for that. With that being said, I think it might be prudent with the questions that are being asked, that we have Mr. Shepherd present to the Council his true intentions for those buildings and what would be involved in those facilities.”
The Mountain City Council tabled both the abatement and the owners’ donation of a crime scene camera until next month’s meeting, set for Tuesday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. Members will meet for a Zoom work session on Tuesday, February 23 at 5 p.m. to discuss the idea further. Anyone interested in attending can do so with meeting ID#934 9452 7296 and password 462702.
Listen to previous meeting recordings at mountaincitytn.org.