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A handful of Midtown business owners aren’t interested in being part of Harriman — despite arguments it will make their property values jump and more commercially appealing.
Harriman officials listening voted down a resolution to have an annexation referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Officials, however, indicated they may revisit the issue to look at interested property owners.
Business owners attending a public hearing last week said the future isn’t their biggest concern. What does have them worried, however, is the city property taxes they would have to pay if they were incorporated.
“If any more taxes are piled on, that drive-in will probably go away,” said Doug Freeman, who operates Midtown Drive-in.
Jerry Farmer, who also operates a business in Midtown, said he’s not interested in being in the city, either.
“I don’t want to be annexed,” he said, pointing to two other residents beside him. “They don’t want to be annexed. All of us have been in business a long time in Midtown, and you all are going to run us out of business.”
Harriman Mayor Chris Mason assured them that property tax revenue isn’t what the city is interested in.
Instead, city leaders are focused on future growth along Hwy. 70 after the opening of Roane Medical Center by Covenant Health next year.
“What the intent is is to look at future development,” Mason said. “The city won’t collect sales tax on the businesses for 15 years.”
He said he believes being in the city, where a potential Cheddar’s or similar restaurant establishment can sell liquor by the drink, will give businesses potential for growth.
“If you don’t do this in the future, we’re not going to get the business in here to improve the quality of life for the people of Harriman and the county, either,” Councilman Ken Mynatt said.
Mason said increased fire and police protection are what the city can offer.
Councilman Buddy Holley said many bigger companies won’t locate on a property unless it’s in a corporate limits because of the fire protection cities can provide.
One Midtown property owner said he talked to his insurance agent at Grigsby Insurance and was told the fire rating would not help his insurance costs at all.
“I’m through and through Midtown,” said Melvin Marlow, who operates Midtown Discount Tire.
He said if he wanted to live in a city, he would move to one.
He also added Midtown residents were told by Harriman officials years ago they would not come after Midtown.
“They gave us their word,” Marlow said.
Those present also asked why some parcels were left off. Mason replied some people in the past requested not to be annexed, and the city has honored that.
Pattersons Home Appliances remains outside the city, but it’s surrounded by Harriman’s corporate limits.
Marlow said he wants the handshake he understood Steve Patterson received to stay out of the city.
Councilman J.D. Sampson has long pushed for annexations along Hwy. 70 to protect the city’s investment in Midtown from being absorbed into other communities.
Sampson pointed out the millions the city spent on the interchange and the development of Pinnacle Pointe, a shopping center that has anchored much of the growth at the I-40 exit.
Property owners were also concerned they wouldn’t have a vote because they do not live on their property.
Officials said state law requires that residents in the proposed annexed area vote. Property owners who do not live there are not eligible to vote.