The Greene County Industrial Development Board will ask for four parcels of land leased to US Nitrogen to be rezoned from agricultural uses to heavy-impact industrial uses.
The board unanimously approved a measure Friday morning that will give County Mayor Alan Broyles, who chairs the board, authority to request that the Greene County Planning Commission recommend to the full County Commission that the four parcels be rezoned from A-1 (agricultural) to M-2 (heavy impact).
The parcels, which County Planner Amy Tweed said total about 41 acres, weren't part of the controversial County Commission vote in February 2011 to rezone more than 400 acres of land in Midway off Pottertown Road, clearing the way for US Nitrogen to build its liquid ammonium nitrate facility.
That 2011 vote is the focus of a lawsuit brought by several Greene County citizens against the county government and the Greene County Partnership.
The plaintiffs allege that government officials violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act in order to pave the way for US Nitrogen to come to Greene County. The plaintiffs are represented by Knoxville attorney Herbert Moncier.
The lawsuit, filed in April 2011, names the Greene County Planning Commission, the Greene County Commission, the Greene County government and the Greene County Partnership as defendants.
It maintains that the Greene County Planning Commission acted "unlawfully and unconstitutionally" in February 2011 in recommending rezoning of property for the then-proposed US Nitrogen plant "without having been previously sworn."
It further claims that any action taken by the Greene County Commission or Greene County "based on the prior void action" of the County Planning Commission was also void.
US Nitrogen attorney Michael Stagg said Friday that the four parcels that still need rezoning had not been acquired by US Nitrogen in 2011, when the other acreage was rezoned.
The Industrial Development Board -- not US Nitrogen -- is making this request for rezoning because on Jan. 1, 2013, the property was conveyed from US Nitrogen to the IDB as part of a tax abatement program for the company.
The conveyance allows US Nitrogen to avoid paying county property taxes for several years on the almost-500 acres it bought.
On Jan. 1, 2023, the property will be transferred back into US Nitrogen's name, and the company will then begin paying county property taxes.
Until then, US Nitrogen will pay $1 per year to lease the property from the IDB.
The lease agreement also stipulates that US Nitrogen pay $9,004.68 per year to the county as part of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT program.
That amount is equal to the total ad valorem tax amount paid to the county on the US Nitrogen property prior to the company's purchasing it, the lease agreement says.
Attorney Jerry Laughlin, who serves as legal counsel for the IDB, said in an interview after the meeting Friday that temporary tax abatements such as the one offered US Nitrogen are a common economic incentive used by communities to attract manufacturing industries.
Such incentives are offered because of the capital investment the industries add to the county's long-term tax base, and the direct and indirect jobs and other local economic stimulus the companies bring to the community.
After the US Nitrogen-related vote Friday, the IDB approved an amendment to an already-existing PILOT program for DTR of Tennessee.
Paperwork for an incentive program for DTR's 2013 expansion will be rolled into the agreement that had already existed between the company and the Industrial Development Board.