State, local officials meeting to focus on future of regional retail sales
Jan 20, 2013 (Bristol Herald Courier - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The future of regional retail sales will be the focus of a Monday meeting involving state lawmakers and officials from Bristol, Va., and neighboring Washington County.
County leaders want to be included in legislation that would allow them to capture state sales tax revenues as a way to repay the costs of attracting a major commercial development. Delegations from the county and city are scheduled to meet with members of the Virginia General Assembly at 3 p.m. Monday in Richmond, according to Dulcie Mumpower, a member of the county's Board of Supervisors.
"We want to be part of this deal that Bristol has," Mumpower said in a telephone interview with the Bristol Herald Courier. "We want to be part of this legislation, to be added to that bill."
In 2012, the General Assembly approved legislation allowing the city to retain sales tax revenues from a development of "regional impact." The city is using that bill as the impetus for developing The Falls, a planned 1.4 million-square-foot commercial center near Interstate 81's Exit 5.
Under that law, the city can access those tax revenues only if the project meets certain criteria. The development must be "reasonably expected" to attract 1 million annual visitors, create 2,000 permanent jobs, generate at least $5 million in state sales tax revenues and represent a capital investment of at least $50 million. Tax revenues are to come back to the city when construction is completed.
Now the city is seeking an amendment that would allow it to claim sales tax revenues from the time each business begins operating.
"All we are asking for is to be on the same playing field as Bristol, Va. We want to have the same tools they have to recruit business into Washington County," Mumpower said.
Bristol, Va., Mayor Jim Steele said Councilman Ed Harlow, City Manager Dewey Cashwell and Economic and Community Development Director Andrew Trivette will represent the city Monday.
"Sometimes you just need to sit down and talk things out," Steele said in a telephone interview with the Herald Courier.
The legislation was approved because of the city's border with Tennessee, which enacted a similar measure in 2011. Another major commercial development known as The Pinnacle is already under way near Interstate 81's Exit 74 in Bristol, Tenn. While the 200-acre Pinnacle lies in Tennessee, a large adjoining parcel is in Washington County, Va.
Also among the county's concerns is potentially losing a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse that currently operates just outside the city limits near Interstate 81's Exit 7. The store is apparently being courted by the city to relocate two miles away at The Falls.
Lowe's and four other businesses are named in a development plan the city prepared and submitted to the Virginia Department of Taxation in December. The words "large tenants include Cabela's, Costcos [sic], Belk, Macy's and Lowe's," appear on page nine of the plan beneath a heading "development to include national brands." Cabela's is the only tenant that has formally announced plans to locate at The Falls.
"We are concerned about that. We don't want to lose a big retailer," Mumpower said. "That represents $350,000 in [annual] tax revenue if that were to happen. Without being included in this bill we will continue to lose money into the city."
Belk currently operates in the city's Bristol Mall while Costco and Macy's have no stores in the Tri-Cities area.
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