Tax committee to seek legal guidance
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 01, 2013 | 837 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bradley County Commission’s tax deferment committee decided Wednesday to seek legal guidance from state representatives concerning developers with undeveloped lots.

Chairman Louie Alford said he is confident a compromise between the County Commission and the Ocoee Region Builders Association would be reached.

Crystal Frieberg, county attorney, said she did not believe granting ORBA’s tax deferment was constitutional.

“My understanding is what is being proposed is some kind of tax deferment for something like a subdivision,” Frieberg said. “I do not believe it is constitutional for the Commission to give a deferment in those specific circumstances.”

She said certain exemptions are built into the statute, but a developer with plats of land for residential housing is not covered.

Lake Mantooth, ORBA president, said developers are not asking for an end to taxes. They are requesting to pay the base price found in the Greenbelt tax range. He previously pointed out there is a 700 percent tax increase post-Greenbelt.

The next two years look grim without a tax deferment, according to Mantooth.

“I’m looking at two years right now by the time I get infrastructure and everything built and ready to package and sell,” Mantooth said. “If I spend that much money, and my tax burden is $60,000 or $70,000 dollars a year, then I am going to be broke.”

Committee members said tax revenue is vital for the growth the developers are predicting.

Dennis Epperson, developer, said he is less likely to build large residential areas with the taxes on plats so high.

“I am going to do 10 at a time. The next phase will be 13. That is going to be less lots being developed and less tax revenue for you guys,” Epperson said.

Alford said any tax deferment would have to have a set limit. The limits could be by lots or by acreage.

“Otherwise, you are opening a can of worms where everyone would request a tax deferment,” Alford said.

Epperson said a tax deferment on his lots would encourage him to build more.

Commissioners asked how many developers were currently in Bradley County. Epperson, Mantooth and Charlotte Peak-Jones said there were probably five or six serious developers left.

“We see a crisis coming. We are going to run out of lots,” Epperson said. “The signs are already there. You just have to know where to look. Spec builders swarmed all the lots available following the tornadoes.”

Bill Winters, commissioner, suggested looking into the feasibility of a tax deferment. He said the issue would have to be analyzed by the other County Commission committees before being placed before the state as a special act.

“Bradley County cannot afford to lose the tax money. You can’t afford to pay more. We need to find a middle ground,” Alford said.

The committee decided to look into the matter more before holding another meeting to discuss the issue further.