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The 50-acre site on Snapps Ferry Road the Greene County Commission will consider purchasing for economic development is seen shaded in this image from the Tennessee Comptroller’s real estate date website.

Greene County’s highest-ranking elected official calls the potential $1.3 million purchase of a 50-acre site on Snapps Ferry Road an “investment in the economic development of Greene County.”

County Mayor Kevin Morrison says the county buying the land would have multiple benefits, including a smoother sale to private industry that will add to the tax base and create jobs and eligibility for government grants to help prepare the site for development.

And both Morrison and Greene County Director of Accounts and Budgets Danny Lowery say buying the land now, with funding the county has already decided to borrow at currently low interest rates, will save money.

“I unequivocally support this purchase. I’m very comfortable with it,” Morrison said.

The Greene County Budget and Finance Committee recommended Thursday that the county purchase the site that fronts Snapps Ferry Road, Thornwood Drive and Gass Drive. The land adjoins the county-owned property at 311 CCU Blvd. housing the Greene County Election Commission Office, the Emergency Management Agency and the EMS substation.

The Greene County Commission is set to vote on the proposed purchase at its meeting Monday, which starts at 6 p.m.

The resolution on the purchase is sponsored by the Budget and Finance Committee and reads: “Because of the need to recruit businesses and industry and secure better paying jobs for our citizens, it would be in the best interests of the residents of Greene County to pursue the purchase of the property … to develop an industrial/business park and seek grant funding for site development from the Rural Economic Opportunity Fund through the State of Tennessee.”

If the commission approves the purchase, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development would evaluate the property to ensure its potential for business and industrial development before it is finalized.

FUNDING A PURCHASE

Both Morrison and Greene County Director of Accounts and Budgets Danny Lowery say the purchase will require no tax increases.

If approved, the purchase would be made using funds from the $10 million general obligation bond the county is using to purchase and renovate the former Takoma Hospital campus.

Lowery estimates that the purchase of Takoma and subsequent renovations will use about $6.5 million of the $10 million bond amount.

“We estimated a little higher bond just in case there were unexpected costs or expenses got high,” Lowery said.

Lowery also said it was beneficial to make the bond larger because he believes the low interest rates in the current financial market will not last. He hopes the larger bond will prevent the county from having to procure another bond in the near future at a higher interest rate.

“All the signs we are seeing point to interest rates going up,” Lowery said.

Morrison and Lowery said the potential purchase of the Snapps Ferry Road property was not part of the reasoning when choosing the $10 million amount. According to Morrison, nothing about the property purchase was in the works when the bond amount was chosen.

However, the funding from the bond may be used for the purchase of the Snapps Ferry Road property as well as other projects as long as the Greene County Commission approves each use of the funding over $10,000.

If the County Commission approves the $1.3 million purchase of the property, that would leave approximately $2.2 million in bond funding after the Takoma purchase and renovations.

“We are well within our ability to make this investment in the economic development of Greene County. This will still keep enough flexibility in our bond money,” Morrison said.

The $10 million bond is a 25 year bond that will be scheduled to be paid off by 2046. However, Lowery said he believes the county will pay it off sooner.

The county cannot save any of the bond money. It must be spent on projects. According to Lowery, it is against federal law for a municipality to issue a bond and save money from it.

BENEFITS OF COUNTY PURCHASE

According to Morrison, the county owning the land and preparing it will make the property more attractive to companies seeking sites.

“This will help remove hesitation from industries coming here. There are five different heirs to this property, so a prospective business would have to work with and get approval from five different family members to purchase it,” Morrison said.

Jeff Taylor, CEO of the Greene County Partnership, which leads economic development efforts for the county, said at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Thursday that because of situations like that, companies looking for sites prefer to deal with governments rather than private owners.

Lowery said it’s an obstacle the county has faced.

“In the past, property has been presented to businesses to move into Greene County, but they never gained traction because of having to secure property from private owners,” Lowery said.

The county would do this legwork beforehand by purchasing the property, and a company would then purchase the land directly from the county.

The property would also be eligible for state economic development grants if owned by the county. Private landowners cannot receive state grants for economic development.

According to Lowery, the county could receive state economic development grant funding and get the property developed.

“We would increase the value of the property and sell it to a company, bring in new jobs, and hardly be out anything,” Lowery said.

Morrison also believes that Greene County should try to take advantage of the state’s economic development grant funding.

“Someone is going to get that grant money. It is already out there. So it should be us. We should try to get that money back in our community,” Morrison said.

The county mayor said he sees the site on Snapps Ferry Road as a unique opportunity.

“I wouldn’t support another large purchase, but I think this purchase, with its location and price, gives us the ability to make an investment in our future,” Morrison said.

And Morrison said he believes purchases such as this one are a necessity for the county to be able to recruit companies and industry moving forward.

“We need public property to be able to recruit industry. It is the model that has allowed Hamblen County to be successful for years,” Morrison said. “Some people may disagree with that, but that is the way things are now. We have to play by the rules of the new game. If you don’t play, you get passed up.”

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