Oak Ridge Development Sparks Controversy

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Oak Ridge, Anderson County (WVLT) - A big retailer could be making its way to one East Tennessee town but not without sparking some controversy.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spent the day in oak ridge to find out what's going on.

Guys, it's a proposal for a Super Target in Oak Ridge, but some residents are not happy about it.

It's a $65 million development project.

The Brentwood, Tennessee, developer is asking for ten and a half million dollars from taxpayers.

City council is close to voting on it, and some say it is just what Oak Ridge needs.

"We've got new housing coming to town, we've got a new high school, we've got jobs here. The missing link has been retail," Oak Ridge City Councilman Tom Beehan says.

The proposed 450,000 square foot Super Target would sit here on 60 acres atop Pine Ridge Mountain off Illinois Avenue.

"They need additional help from the city to really kick this off the way it needs to be done," Councilman Beehan says the $10.5 million in taxpayer's money will go to more than just Target. "They didn't guarantee us anything, but they said they generally work with Kohl's, Old Navy and those types of retailers that aren't here now."

"I don't believe that it's a good policy to spend taxpayer money on retail developments unless it's extraordinary circumstances," Oak Ridge City Council candidate Jerry Marrow says bringing big business to a small town is not the answer. "We need to be recruiting private industry, and with private industry there will come jobs. With jobs there will come wages and the retail will follow money."

"The mom and pops are the heart and soul of America, but unfortunately there's a changing in the retail and they just cannot compete with these big boxes," Beehan says besides bringing in almost 900 new jobs, and almost $400,000 to Oak Ridge schools every year, tax payers would actually benefit in the end.

"It could mean a potential 15-cent deduction on your potential property taxes," says Beehan.

Oak Ridge City Council is meeting next Monday and a final vote is expected March 19th. If passed, the Super Target and neighboring stores would open in 2009.

Just down the road in Clinton, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter near I-75 is set to open by 2008.

A new Fox Toyota will be moving to the east side of the interstate, with a retail-restaurant center right next to it.

And Ray Viles Ford just opened up on Charles Seviers Boulevard with a small strip center going up beside it.

"It'll allow us to spend more of our tax dollars within the city limits, but it gives us the opportunity to buy the products that we want, instead of having to go out of our city to buy those items," Beehan says.

Right now most Clinton and Oak Ridge residents go into Knox County to do most of their shopping so this could make a big difference.


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