Woody not alone in Plateau Park doubts

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County Executive Ron Woody is not the only county head who sees a problem with the Plateau Partnership Park agreement.

Morgan County Executive Don Edwards does as well.

“Morgan County has no more money to put into this project nevertheless,” he wrote in an email to Woody on July 1. “We must rework this agreement ASAP.”

The industrial park is a joint venture between Cumberland, Morgan and Roane counties.

An agreement between the counties was signed in 2007. Leadership in all three counties has changed since then.

Woody is not a fan of the agreement and has let it be known since he took office last September.

None of the park’s 1,163 acres is in Roane County. Most of the land — 887 acres — is in Cumberland.  

In a position statement about the park, Woody explains why he thinks the 2007 agreement was a bad deal for Roane County.

The agreement calls for the three counties to share in the property tax revenue for 20 years. Four years have already elapsed.

“Infrastructure development could be as far out as three to five years,” Woody wrote. “Then with a potential 10-year tax abatement program that would leave property tax sharing of only one to three years.”

Each county has $2.5 million invested in the park. If the agreement remains at 20 years, Woody said the investments that Roane and Morgan have made is at risk of not being returned because the most desirable property is in Cumberland.

Current state law only allows for the sharing of property tax revenue for 30 years.

Woody said the park’s board of directors should ask the state legislature to amend the law to allow for property tax sharing for at least 50 years.

“Sharing of property tax in a time frame, which is currently 20 years and could be 30 years does not necessarily guarantee the original investment return due to the park not being fully developed within the tax sharing agreement time needed to develop the property before actual use,” he wrote.

Woody has several other suggestions for the park’s board, including development of a financial plan, asking the state to become a partner in the project, address estimated costs for the utility providers and refrain from spending money on marketing the park until acceptable utility service deadlines and potential costs are known.

His entire position statement is posted on Roane County’s website.

“Just read your position paper,” Edwards said via email to Woody. “I am in absolute agreement.”