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Event center, sales tax on tap for city council

By Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:55 PM

Lebanon City Council is again set to consider a second reading for the proposed Cumberland Center Development District Tuesday.

Council members were set to vote Dec. 3 on the second reading of a measure to establish a Cumberland Center Development District of about 257 acres and to create a fund for the future development of a multipurpose event center at the heart of the district.

According to Mayor Philip Craighead, a private developer owning about 165 acres of the district would hand over title to 20 acres for the city to build the event center in exchange for the city adding infrastructure to the property.

The council delayed its final vote until councilors could talk with county commissioners and county school board members.

As part of the plan, the city would seek a collaboration with Wilson County and Wilson County Schools to help fund the proposed event center. Each entity would contribute sales tax dollars generated within the district to the fund.

Members from each entity gathered Jan. 9 for a joint work session to discuss the proposal, but Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said the city would have to take the lead before the county committed one way or another.

“If the city of Lebanon says to us, ‘Hey we want to take this entertainment district and set back our property tax and our portion of the sales tax and we’d like for you to set your portion of the property tax and sales tax back to see if we can create a strong enough revenue stream to fund this thing, then I would run that through budget first and then the county commission floor,” said Hutto. “What they would say back to me right off the bat is, ‘Is Lebanon in or out?’ Once that was done, they could make their decision, and then I’m sure it would go to the school system.”

Council members were again set to vote on the measure Jan. 21, but Craighead pulled the item from the agenda because Councilors Kathy Warmath and Lanny Jewell were not able to attend the meeting.

Councilors are set to decide Tuesday whether to move ahead with the plan, though.

“In discussions with highly sought after national level site selection executives and hospitality consultants, I have been told that they are watching this issue very closely and are very supportive of our actions,” said Craighead in an email.

In a letter to city council, the site developer’s representative, Larry Frankenbach, vice president of Vastland Realty Group, urged councilors to approve establishing the district.

“If you were to vote unanimously again to establish the district, the entire region would know that Lebanon is taking a leadership role to bring events, sales meetings, conventions, sports and new businesses to your community,” said Frankenbach.

He also reminded councilors that the 20 acres offered for the city to build the event center would be transferred to the city upon establishment of the district.

“The board that manages the funds from this plan will have city, county and citizens on it and perhaps school board representation. It will always be in control of the way the funds are spent,” said Frankenbach. “This is a fair and transparent plan that insures that the key stakeholders will always be in control of the progress towards a community events center in Lebanon.”

Councilors are also set to consider Tuesday whether to ask voters for a half-percent increase on the city’s local option sales tax, raising the rate from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent.

State law allows municipalities to set local option sales tax rates up to 2.75 percent on the first $1,600 of any single piece of personal property.

The ordinance would allow the city to place the question on the ballot in a special election.

City council was due to consider the measure during its Jan. 7 meeting, but city officials postponed it after discussions between City Attorney Andy Wright and state election officials revealed concerns from the state election officials.

The original version of the ordinance included wording that could link passage of the sales tax to a reduction of property taxes.

“They are of the position that incorporating any reference to a property tax into the ballot questions would be confusing to voters and possibly subject the referendum to a successful legal challenge,” said Wright in an email at the time.

He said they also believed the wording of it could violate the city’s charter since the charter vests city council with sole authority for setting property tax rates. 

The new ordinance strips any reference to property tax rates.

In other business, councilors will consider the following actions:

• waiving fees for the construction of the new Wilson County Veterans Memorial Plaza;

• line item transfers for the meter reader department for overtime plus benefits due to meter change outs and adjustments needed with the new meter reading system;

• approving bids for one CNG truck for the mayor’s office;

• amending the city’s personnel rules and regulations to provide specific definitions for full-time employee, part-time employee and seasonal employee;

• adjusting the city’s utility connection, reconnections and tampering fees and establishing a transfer fee;

• entering into an agreement with Wilson County Planning, Wilson County Emergency Communications District E-911, Wilson County GIS Sinking Fund and the City of Mt. Juliet for sharing the cost of Pictometry Aerial Imagery;

• adjusting the budget to cover sanitation truck maintenance;

• adjusting the budget by $29,800 to cover expenses related to refunding bonds for the sewer plant;

• amending the city’s Future Land Use Plan by changing part of the land at 2072 Old Murfreesboro Road from commercial office to industrial commercial;

• rezoning property at 2072 Old Murfreesboro Road from agricultural to highway business and industrial subdivision;

• approving a Certificate of Compliance for a retail package store, All American Wine and Spirits, located at 703C South Cumberland;

• accepting THW Insurance Services, LLC as the city’s broker for obtaining health insurance quotes and other support services;

• requesting a Private Act from the state legislature to amend the city’s charter in order to increase the city’s purchasing limits;

• requesting state lawmakers to change proposed legislation concerning the Wastewater Authority in Wilson County and to allow the City of Lebanon and the City of Mt. Juliet authority to provide sanitary sewer service within the current or future city limits of each city. 

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