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Council halts industrial park support

Xavier Smith • Mar 2, 2017 at 8:10 PM

The Lebanon City Council agreed to halt its commitment to the potential Sparta Pike Industrial Park on Thursday after discussion on the financial obligations associated with the project.

The group, along with the Wilson County Commission and Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board, has worked on bringing the potential park to fruition since last year.

The property between Cainsville Road and Sparta Pike and south of Interstate 40 has Tennessee Valley Authority lines running through it and railroad tracks beside it, which city officials have called a prime location for advanced manufacturing jobs. 

The two pieces of property, owned by the Shaffer and Edwards families, equals about 330 acres, and the industrial park would be a Lebanon-Wilson County joint venture.

Officials said the park would alleviate some growth issues with securing land for potential developments. 

Caleb Thorne of Ragan-Smith Associates made his presentation to the council Thursday night after making a similar presentation to the Wilson County JECDB earlier in the day. Thorne reported on the potential development costs for the park after instruction to explore the costs from the council last month.

Thorne said he anticipated that full build out of the park could extend to approximately 10-20 years, with the City of Lebanon and Wilson County splitting some costs.

The land purchase is on a 5-year payment plan, which means the purchaser would not be responsible to pay the $7.6 million purchasing price at closing. Thorne’s report also included a recommendation that an allowance be established of $1.25 million above the purchase price to provide erosion control, bush hogging, clearing, burning and restablization to market the land to potential suitors.

The report also included an estimated project cost total of approximately $9.5 million over about 20 years, with the first phase completing by 2022.

Lebanon Finance Commissioner Robert Springer said the city couldn’t financially support the project without finding new revenue sources.

“Before this project came along, I’ve consistently said that the city would have to find substantial new revenue sources if were going to do [Legends Drive extension], the fire hall (on E. Division Street) and [Beckwith Road interchange] at the same time,” Springer said.

Springer said obstacles with property on Beckwith Road prevent it from being likely to come forward in the next year or so, but the west side park project took its place financially in a sense.

“Legends and the fire hall are done, basically, so we’re committed there. We are finding some new revenue in this budget to be able to do some things, but there’s no extra money to do any of this with, so to speak, in the next two budgets I’m working on,” he said.

“This is a great project. I think it’s something that needs to be done, but I don’t think we’re in the position as a city that we can participate. I don’t see how to do it without raising taxes substantially. I’m not going to advocate that,” Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said.

Councilor Rob Cesternino said when the proposal first appeared before the council, he supported exploring the idea, but didn’t feel the city should be in the “development business.” He also questioned if the park would be consistent with the desired identify of Lebanon and Sparta Pike.

Cesternino highlighted the fact the city annexed and rezoned the property last year and said the city would do what it could to support the project moving forward.

Hixson and Thorne, or Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, will make a presentation to the Wilson County Budget Committee later this month. 

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