ALF request in Loudon assessor's hands

Property owner says land was under appraised

By Hugh Willett


Lenoir City developer Mark Matlock's request for an appraisal levied financing (ALF) program might be in the hands of the Loudon County Assessors Office and the Board of Equalization.

Matlock is seeking a loan to help pay for infrastructure improvements on property he owns on Highway 321 in Lenoir City. ALF, a hybrid of tax increment financing (TIF), would use incremental property tax increases based on an increased assessment to pay off the loan.

Matlock contends that his property has been under appraised.

In a letter to the Lenoir City Council, County Assessor Chuck Jenkins stated "we stand by our recent property tax appraisals of Mr. Matlock's property."

"If Mr. Matlock has a bank or fee appraisal that shows something different, we would be glad to take a look at it. But unless it can be shown that we reached our decision in error, we cannot simply change his appraisal," Jenkins stated.

Matlock would have to file an appeal with the equalization board, but the window for filing such an appeal has closed for the 2009 year, Jenkins said. The board will reconvene next June.

Jenkins conceded that Matlock could make a case for under appraisal based on the fact that the property is of higher quality than surrounding businesses.

“He has a point in terms of quality and materials,” Jenkins said. “We call it ‘excellent’ in terms of quality. We don’t give too many excellent ratings.”

In fact Matlock’s property might be the only property rated excellent along Highway 321, he said.

Knoxville Attorney Mark Mamantov, who is knowledgeable of TIF programs, agreed with Jenkins about the need to convince the equalization board that the property was under appraised.

“That would be the first step,” he said. “The next step would be to ask the Industrial Development Board to present an economic impact report.”

The general reasoning behind all TIF’s is that the investment of tax revenue in infrastructure will create long term tax revenue gains for the municipality involved, Mamantov said.

Matlock’s case is somewhat different in that the infrastructure improvements have already been made, he said.

A favorable report from the IDB would be among the factors that might convince the Lenoir City Council to approve the proposal, Mamantov said.

At least two members of the council are not predisposed to TIFs in general.

“I’m not in favor of TIFs,” said Councilman Douglas “Buddy” Hines. “I voted against the last TIF,” he said.

Hines said it is his understanding that TIFs should be used for depleted properties and he would be opposed to the use of TIFs along the Highway 321 corridor for that reason.

Councilman Bobby Johnson Sr. also said he was not in favor of TIFs.

“If a company comes in here and says they will create 200 or 400 jobs, then I can see it makes sense, but not in this case,” Johnson said.