County working on way to find relief for Rocky Top

It’s been called an economically depressed area and — recently — a “food desert.”

But it also is home to about 1,800 Anderson Countians, plus another 1,000 or so who live in the immediate surrounding area.

It’s Rocky Top, Tennessee, and as Anderson County Operations Committee Chairman Tim Isbel said, “It’s hurting.”

It’s been about two years since the only supermarket in Rocky Top — Shoprite — closed.

Despite numerous inquiries about the site, no other supermarket — chain or independent — has opted to locate there. The numbers don’t seem to back it up, Operations Committee members were told Monday night.

But the Operations Committee took a step to try to help Monday night — passing a resolution to forward to the full Anderson County Commission for next Tuesday’s meeting — that would lower Tax Increment Financing (TIF) requirements for three areas in the county.

If passed — and there is still some tweaking to be done to the resolution — it could make locating new businesses in Rocky Top, Norris, and Oliver Springs very palatable.

The resolution would drop the minimum requirement of a $3 million development to $500,000 in those areas.

A TIF freezes the tax rate at its current level for a period of years — 10 or 20 — as an incentive for development.

The measure was forwarded unanimously.

This comes less than a month after Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank asked County Commission to allow her to form a committee to look at the current standards required by the county for TIF consideration.

Frank said she would like to the county to be able to judge TIF requests on a sort of case-by-case basis.

She outlined how several counties in Tennessee have structured their TIFs to address economic booms — and use them for the advantage of economically depressed areas.

That request was rejected.

This TIF requirement would only be available in the areas outlined — a task Anderson County Attorney Jay Yeager said he would have ready by the time of the Feb. 18 County Commission meeting.