BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
The developer behind Project Field of Dreams, a proposed auto-parts manufacturing facility, requested to have $344,000 in development fees waived Monday night in front of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The 145,000 square-foot facility would be located at 3555 Cleburne Road, just northeast of Spring Hill Middle School, and employ 134 people with an average salary of $42,000.
Part of the project would involve improvements to the sewer line at an estimated cost of $315,000, as well as improvements to Cleburne Road, at an estimated value of $1,300,000.
Representative for the project David Shirley explained the reasoning for the request. He said it was due to a mix of planning code requirements, which he called “unusual for a light industrial site,” and that the requirements have been “a burden on the project.”
“I’d go further and say had we understood these costs before – we’re at a point where it’s too late to go elsewhere – we probably would’ve gone elsewhere,” Shirley said. “We looked at sites in Lewisburg, and honestly, that’s probably what we would’ve done.”
The board had mixed opinions on the request. Ward 2 Alderman Matt Fitterer said he would not be willing to support the request, and that it was “not a precedent I’m willing to set.”
Ward 3 Aldermen Susan Zemek said she would be willing to make some compromises by waiving some of the development fees, save for the traffic impact study.
“We have been striving to not be a bedroom community for a very long time, and this is the kind of business that we want to come into our city, so our citizens can stay here,” Zemek said. “I think we can come up with a compromise. The cities all around us do this on a daily basis, hence why they have white-collar jobs, and they’re not bedroom communities.”
Ward 1 Alderman Chad Whittenburg spoke out against waiving any development fees, citing Tennessee’s lack of state income tax, as well as the tax abatements already granted for the project. A tax abatement is a reduction of taxes granted by the government to encourage economic development.
Ward 1 Alderman Amy Wurth said she would not support the request, saying they “have to protect the citizens.”
“We’re in a tough situation, and this puts us in a really tough situation,” Wurth said. “On top of waiving property taxes, you’re asking to come here 100 percent for free, outside of doing some road improvements. It’s a big ask.”
Shirley brought up the point of why the board would even consider the request, given the fact that the developer has already chosen to develop in Spring Hill.
“There’s a part of the business that has to be at this site, but certainly not all of it,” Shirley said. “We’ve been conducting a study recently to look at potentially outsourcing part of the business to Pulaski. Chances are, we’ll probably conclude that we want to keep it in the site we’re developing, but there’s always pressure to find out the best way to make the business efficient… to make money from it.”
Despite the exchange, Shirley said he looked forward to the partnership with the city of Spring Hill, regardless of the board’s decision, and that he liked the community.
The board will vote on the request at their next voting meeting on Monday, Aug. 20. It will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 199 Town Center Parkway.