‘No taxes’ offered to Midtown merchants

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By Cindy Simpson

City property taxes may not be quite the worry many Midtown residents thought it would be when battling Harriman leaders against annexation.
“I can offer you no taxes,” Harriman City Councilman Buddy Holley recently told two Midtown business owners.
Holley said he’s learned from Municipal Technical Advisory Service the city can offer a contract to residents of future annexed properties to either hold off on paying city taxes for a certain length of time or until the property is sold to another landowner.
He encouraged one of the business owners to take MTAS information to an attorney to make sure it was a situation where the property owner would come out on top.
Melvin Marlow said he would do that.
Harriman Councilman J.D. Sampson has been the most aggressive at pushing to annex or include Midtown in the city’s urban growth area.
Sampson says his interest is to protect the city from losing potentially prime real estate to other municipalities.
He points to all the growth in Midtown since Harriman invested in the area’s infrastructure and wants to ensure continued growth is in the city limits.
Sampson even referred to a car lot benefiting from the increased traffic because of Lowe’s and Kroger, and it was assumed he meant Marlow’s business. However, another car lot is in the area the city is considering annexing or putting in urban growth.
City Attorney Harold Balcom said he understood the city was interested in potentially annexing the same areas it once considered holding a referendum for.
Referendum is still an option, he said.
Many property owners take issue with that because laws require voters to live on the property. This chafes some business owners, who don’t live in Midtown and would have no say in the matter.
The city has had problems with asking the urban growth committee to reconvene in the past.
Balcom said those problems have stemmed from Harriman’s litigation over parts of Midtown with Kingston, a lawsuit Kingston won.
The city had made a plan in 2007, but the committee refused to convene because Kingston shortly afterward decided to have a referendum for much of the same proposed area.
Harriman unsuccessfully argued its proposal to expand urban growth should take precedence because it began first.
Later, County Executive Ron Woody said Harriman leaders needed to make a new proposal and follow the proper procedures before he’d reconvene the committee.
City officials first argued they took proper measures in 2007, but Balcom admitted recently that plan is now stale because of the time that has passed and because much of the areas had been annexed.
Balcom said state law now requires the county to reconvene the urban growth committee within six weeks of the request from a municipality, which must first take the appropriate measures including to do a study and send it to the appropriate parties.
If the county refuses to convene the committee at that time, the city can now take legal measures to make sure it does.