Rutherford County Industrial Development Board reviewed plans for Bible Park USA today, voting 6-0 to send the proposal to the county commission.
IDB was charged with reviewing SafeHarbor, LLC’s economic impact plan of a proposed $175-200 million, 275-acre biblically themed park in Blackman Community.
“You’re to decide whether this area is available for Tax Increment Financing from real property tax,” IDB attorney Sumner Bouldin told the board. “Then it goes to the county commission in total. … If it passes (the commission), then it would come back to us for the issuance of bonds.”
The board found the plan meets state requirements and the developers qualify to tap into possibly $29 million in TIF funds. The vote was 6-0 with no members passing. The county commission has the final say in the future of the park at its May meeting.
IDB also found Bible Park USA meets requirements for real property tax based Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
TIF financing is money used for developers to make an investment in a community, said attorney J. Thomas Trent Jr. of Nashville who spoke to the County Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee last week.
Bonds to finance projects are then issued through the Industrial Development Board. TIF money, generated from the incremental increase in the sales and property taxes over the present use of the property, is used to pay down the debt on those bonds.
In regards to the economic impact plan, study co-author Mark Burton addressed the board and explained the study’s findings.
Burton and his partner Michael Hicks found the county will see an additional $3.8 million annually in sales and property taxes from the proposed Bible Park USA.
Also the park would create 1,450 fulltime and partime jobs to add $17 million in income to residents, the report stated.
Also, the project is expected to create about 1,350 new tourism jobs producing $55 million in income over five years, the report stated. The tourism jobs will be produced from the construction and development of six 250-room hotels and an additional 20 restaurants with about $277 in construction costs, the report stated.
“We were as conservative as we could possibly be … in the assumptions we made,” Burton said.
However, comments made during the public hearing questioned the independent nature and validity of the economic impact study and projections. Many asked for more transparency in the process.
“We all can make projections, but they don’t always come true,” Gerald Sullivan said to the board.
Others questioned the private use of public money on a project as controversial as Bible Park USA and asked the IBD to “be good steward’s of taxpayer money.”
Murfreesboro resident Billy Pittman summed up this sentiment.
“I want to build a new house. So I want Rutherford County to provide TIF money for it because it will be bigger and produce more property tax revenue,” Pittman said.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at (615) 869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."