Bible Park, officials ink Genesis step

“To tell you the truth, I was very surprised when I read Safe Harbor’s proposal. It’s a lot better than previous proposals we received from other projects in the past. The next thing I did was ask (County) Mayor (Robert) Dedman and Phil Smartt, ID Board chair, to review it. I was anxious for Phil to look at it because he’s very familiar with ID bonds and banking. Both Phil and Robert agreed, according to this MOU, there doesn’t appear to be risk or downside for the city or county.

 “We don’t lose or risk any existing property taxes, and we keep all the sales taxes. The Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) or TIF district is limited to the Park itself. That’s it. We keep all of the property tax and sales tax generated in the surrounding area that would be developed with retail stores and hotels,” the Lebanon mayor said.

“A privilege tax in the TDZ (inside the Park itself) on sales strictly within the park and increased property tax from within the Park would pay back bonds for construction of the project, and after that, all property tax and the privilege tax from the Park would go to the City and the County. We keep all the sales tax from the park. And the best point is that the local governments don’t back the bonds. The City and County aren’t on the hook if the project didn’t take off as projected,” Fox said.

Fox also noted that the main issue of contention in Rutherford County was the neighboring residential development near the proposed site there.

Fox said a news release issued yesterday was “to further inform our Wilson County public of this win-win situation for our taxpayers. We are very pleased with the public’s positive reception of this project. The TV stations that covered the reaction of the public found very positive reaction by Wilson Countians, and seemed pleased that we are not enduring the groundswell of outspoken opposition. Of course we expect some opposition, but thus far I know of only one Wilson County person who was not knowledgeable of the features and non-doctrinal theme of the Park who spoke negatively. We have been contacted by two Rutherford Countians who made some radical statements – Rutherford Countians – go figure. We aren’t going to have the problems that Safe Harbor Holding encountered in Rutherford County here,” Fox said.

“They don’t want to go down that road again. The only sites they are looking at here in Wilson County are already proposed for future commercial development. They haven’t made any commitment yet to any site, and we are working with them on several commercial locations. We know we’re in competition with many other cities and even other states,” he said.

“We believe this is the best place for them, and we’re encouraged at their level of interest, Fox said.

He added that “as far as next steps, Safe Harbor has said they are continuing their site search, and will be more willing to make public statements once they make their site decision. We are working with them to meet with community groups and other local leaders and officials as soon as they feel comfortable with their commitment to be here.”