Riverfront tax district touted as business lure

9:56 am | March 26, 2013

Properties along the Watauga River in Elizabethton, once the center of industry for the area, could see a second era of economic prosperity if local development groups can entice businesses to move there.

Photo contributedOfficials have announced that two old North American Rayon buildings — the old power house and the polyester building — will be razed to prepare the land for potential development.

Photo contributed
City Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman said Monday that the proposal of a new TIF district has already sparked developers’ interest in properties along the Watauga River, most notably the former North American Rayon building.

At Monday’s Carter County Tomorrow meeting, Elizabethton’s director of planning and development presented a plan to help pay for upgrades in the Riverfront District that he said will help to convince prospective tenants to relocate.

“Basically what we’re looking at doing is creating a tax increment financing district,” the city’s Jon Hartman told the economic board. “That way we can make improvements within the district without raising taxes on the city residents.”

The tax increment financing district, or TIF, would extend from Sycamore Shoals Hospital in the west to Mill Street in the east and from Elk Avenue north to the river, and would include the industrial park on Cherokee Park Drive and the two dilapidated buildings that once housed portions of the North American Rayon Corp. and Bemberg operations.

A TIF is used to set aside revenue brought in by the increase in property values as development occurs in the district.

Once approved by the Elizabethton City Council, taxes collected by the city on those properties would be capped at a certain value.

When the properties grow in value because of investment, the additional revenue would be held in a special account to help pay for infrastructure improvements or other incentives to business.

“We may be able to use that money to build frontage roads to help the traffic flow or help private developers make improvement to their property,” Hartman said. “The North American Rayon site has been classified as a brownfield because of the industrial activity there; some of that could be used to help pay for mitigation rather than put it completely on the developer.”

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