By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post
The next round in the fight for the Bible Park may involve attempting to move the site out of Lebanon and into the county.
Former Lebanon Mayor Don Fox met with Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman and County Attorney Mike Jennings to discuss the issue on Wednesday, Dedman said.
He said Fox discussed the park and said it could possibly be relocated to a site on State Route 840 near the Superspeedway.
“I told him I think the County Commission is going to want answers to the same questions the City Council is asking,” Dedman said. “I think it will have a hard time passing without financials.”
The city council, at its meeting this past Tuesday, decided to withdraw approval until financial disclosure is made concerning the backers of the proposed Bible Park despite the fact that the city, according to City Attorney Andy Wright has no financial liability in the project.
“One hundred percent of all monies used to purchase bonds will come from private investors and they will be non-recourse bonds, meaning no governmental backing” or no local government financial liability,” Wright said.
He said the “only potential public money will be the dedication of any increase in future property taxes resulting from the development of the property to the debt service. All current property taxes will continue to be paid to the city and county.”
Fox said the issue is all about jobs and added tax revenues for the city and county.
“I don’t know how you can reject 2,000 jobs, and $100 million in sales tax over the next 20 or 30 years,” he said. If we don’t keep it here, it will go to Franklin County, Ky. They’ve said they want it.”
County Budget Committee Chair Bernie Ash said he hasn’t met with anyone yet concerning a potential move, but he does see problems with transparency as well.
“I had an amendment ready to add before it was deferred,” he said, referring to the commission vote on a 5 percent privilege tax to be charged within the park if/when it’s built to help pay off bonds issued for financing the project.
The amendment would have asked the Wilson County Industrial Development Board to require a third party evaluation of the feasibility of the plans before allowing the promoters to issue bonds, Ash said in an interview Thursday.
“I would add the amendment if we can get this to pass, which at this point is still a big if,’ he added.
When Lebanon Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer heard about the meeting he responded by e-mail as follows, “Since the County officials have not yet required any financial capability or information to be produced, we can only assume this is an end-run to keep from being open and accountable to the public.”
But Fox pointed out that the process is very similar to the one followed by Dell and other industries which have come to Wilson County.
“We didn’t know anything about how Dell would finance their plant until the ID Board worked it out,” he said.
Regarding the possibility that the park might fail, Fox added, “If it fails, we still have a developed piece of property.”
He said he has contacted the Superspeedway folks and they are very interested. And he added that Developer Rob Wyatt and the Bible Park promoters are looking at the possible change as well.
A spokesman for the company that owns the Superspeedway in Gladeville said Thursday that his company would consider a land sale on the 2,000 acre site for a theme park but added that to his knowledge no one has approached Dover Downs with such a proposal.
He said he believed the Superspeedway property is situated in an ideal location for such a venture, adding that there is adequate space for growth and future development. He said the site would be attractive for a number of reasons for an initiative such as a theme park listing its central location, closeness to Nashville, easy access from nearby interstate highways via State Route 840, and its already identifiable location because of vast marketing for the Superspeedway. “If we’d had this attitude during the 1990s, we wouldn’t have what we’ve got.” Fox concluded.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.