The Crossville City Council hopes the Tennessee General Assembly will take action to allow it to offer a special financing option for retail development.

“Cumberland County is ineligible for this type of help from the state of Tennessee to work on retail development,” Crossville Mayor James Mayberry said during the Nov. 12 meeting of the council. “There are only 15 counties in the state that are eligible.”

The program, a sales tax tax-increment financing program, allows counties and cities to use state sales tax collections to fund bonds for infrastructure necessary to develop retail property.

State law restricts the program to rural, economically distressed counties. The state identifies these counties through a variety of economic measures that include unemployment rate, rate of job growth, personal income per capita, property tax base per capita, the percentage of residents with a high school diploma and the percentage of residents living below the poverty level.

“Three of those 15 distressed counties that are eligible touch Cumberland County,” he said, pointing to Morgan, Fentress and Bledsoe counties. “They’re what’s called tier 4 distressed.”

Rhea and Van Buren counties both are considered tier 3 counties.

“Our theory is that we are the center of a distressed region,” Mayberry said. “The people from these counties to our north and south come here to shop and work, to eat, to live.”

The council approved a resolution asking state Rep. Cameron Sexton and state Sen. Paul Bailey to introduce legislation amending state law to allow counties bordered by three or more distressed counties to apply for a sales tax TIF under the state’s law. 

The resolution notes several retail and industrial developers are interested in developing shopping centers in Crossville. 

Last year, the council directed its attorney and city manager to negotiate with a company seeking $6.5 million in city funding for development of a multi-building retail development center on N. Main St. in Crossville. That funding would have to take the form of infrastructure or property improvement. 

Other communities in the state have used public funds to assist in retail development. One type of financing would allow the city to receive the same property tax on the developed property it currently receives and the tax generated by improvements to the site would go toward the loans used to pay for infrastructure improvements. However, the city’s tax rate is 59.05 cents per $100 of assessed value and would not provide sufficient income to pay for the loans.

The city can’t create a sales tax increment financing due to state law. 

Another developer expressed interest in developing property on Interstate Dr. in Crossville. That company needed upgrades to Old Jamestown Hwy. to handle increased traffic. 

These developments would create jobs for Cumberland County and the surrounding communities, the resolution notes. 

Mayberry moved to approve the resolution, supported by Councilman J.H. Graham III. The motion was unanimously approved.

The council also approved providing local nonprofit agency Hilltoppers a 6.5-acre parcel on Duer Ct. as a new site for the agency. 

In April, the city agreed to give Hilltoppers up to 3.9 acres of property to build a new facility should the agency sell their Sweeney Dr. property to an unnamed company considering locating in the city. The city also agreed to provide building permits, technical advice and water and sewer taps for a new building. 

City Attorney Will Ridley said Hilltoppers had studied the property originally offered but determined they would need more than 3.9 acres. 

“They’re requesting some additional land,” Ridley said. “We need to authorize the city clerk to begin the 30-day advertising period required any time we transfer property.”

City Manager Greg Wood said there were some issues with the property due to the location of TVA power transmission lines and the steep grade of the land, but that Hilltoppers had determined it would meet their needs.

Graham moved to approve the request and advertising period, supported by Councilman Rob Harrison. The motion was unanimously approved. 

Ridley also reported a lawsuit against the city by the former dispatch director Mike Blackwood had been settled. The city would only pay its insurance deductible.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

Recommended for you