Officials take steps to land retailer

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Brookhaven and Lincoln County officials Tuesday took the firststeps toward a tax financing plan designed to entice ahome-improvement store to locate in the community.

Supervisors Tuesday morning scheduled Oct. 4 public hearings ona redevelopment plan and a financing plan for the project, whichhas been rumored to include a Home Depot. Tuesday evening, aldermenscheduled similar hearings for Oct. 5.

“All we’re doing at this point is having public hearings,” MayorBob Massengill said Tuesday night.

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Chris Gouras Jr., associate consultant with Urban PlanningConsultants in Vicksburg, said the redevelopment plan will qualifythe city and county to use the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF,plan. Gouras said the plans would be available for public reviewbeginning next week.

Under the proposal, Gouras said Ergon Properties would purchase11 acres on Brookway Boulevard west of I-55. An $825,000infrastructure project to be funded by the TIF plan would supplywater and sewer, access roads and other needs for the 11 acres,with surrounding 15 acres also available for possible out parceldevelopment.

Under the TIF plan, the city and county would pledge newproperty taxes from the development toward retiring the debt on an$825,000 bond issue. The city could also pledge a portion of itssales tax collected from the business toward debt service.

Gouras mentioned 10- and 15-year bond issue projected costs andexpected monetary needs to retire the debt. Those projections haddebt service being covered mostly by property taxes.

“In either case, reliance upon sales tax to pay that debt willbe minimal,” Gouras said.

While the city and county approved hearings for the financingplan, Gouras said the entities would not actually pursue a bondissue until later in the project. While the project is still in theworks, developers said it was “imperative” that the city and countyagree to the TIF plan.

“If we hadn’t gotten to this point, we couldn’t be goingforward,” Gouras said as he and Ergon officials left last night’smeeting.

During the city board meeting, Massengill alluded to a letterfrom Columbus Lumber Co. expressing concerns about the city’s TIFplans. Although the board did not discuss the letter, Massengillencouraged board members to read it.

In the letter, Columbus president Bill Behan said the demand forbuilding products is being met by existing local providers. He saidthere is little retail sales growth potential for those products inBrookhaven, and that any sales generated by the new store would bedisplaced from existing businesses.

During the supervisors’ meeting, there was no mention of anydissent regarding TIF plans.

In fact, Chandler Russ, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce executive vice-president, said public reaction to therumored development has been positive. At the city board meeting,he touted its potential impact on future development.

“We appreciate the support from the boards,” Russ said. “It’ssomething we feel, if this project happens, it’s going to be ananchor to commercial development on the boulevard.”