Deal allows infrastructure updates for $300M Bellevue development

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 9:28pm

An unusually structured special assessment arrangement cleared the Metro Council Tuesday night, allowing for the construction of infrastructure to accommodate a $300 million suburban-style mixed-use development in Bellevue. 

“This is the first time to my knowledge that it’s been done in Tennessee,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said, “where you use this statute to create a special assessment district that’s going to allow for the infrastructure of a major development to be built on the front end.”

A Texas development group has proposed the sprawling Biltmore Ridges on portions of 1,140 acres it owns in Bellevue near the Interstate 40 and McCrory Lane interchange. 

The project would be massive, spanning about 1,000 acres. Plans include 441 single-family homes, 576 townhomes, 380 multi-family units, 236,500 square feet of office space, 521,000 square feet of retail space, 10,500 square feet of restaurant space and a hotel. 

Before it gets to that stage, the developers want to address various infrastructure improvements totaling $18.2 million –– which the council’s unanimous vote on a resolution Tuesday likely achieves. Metro’s Industrial Development Board (IDB) still needs to sign off on the plan.  

Needed upgrades include the relocation and undergrounding of electrical lines; a new water line; McCrory Lane road improvements; and the construction of a water tank. 

A state statute allows public infrastructure improvements to be paid by a special assessment levied on the properties benefiting from the improvement, according to council attorney Jon Cooper’s legal analysis. 

In this case, the IDB would issue bonds that would be paid off by special assessments –– essentially an added tax –– on parcels within the new development. The principal amount of the bonds is estimated at $28.2 million. The developer currently owns all 10 of the parcels. 

“There’s no real exposure to the city,” Riebeling said. “[Metro] Public Works convinced me early on that this infrastructure is really critical for the development out there.” 

Tuesday’s meeting marked the first for the newly elected Metro Council, which features 17 new members. 

Because it was the first meeting of the new council term, all ordinances that came before the council arrived on the first of three required votes. By council rule, all ordinances clear the council without debate on first reading. Thus, it was a quiet meeting Tuesday, with no deliberation. 

8 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 10/5/11 at 9:58

Cue hateful comments from the Downtown First-Downtown Only people. I see words like sprawl, wasteland, and "evil developers" in all our futures.

By: Dorothy12568 on 10/5/11 at 10:06

We should make sure that the new development is fully paid for by the developer and that the general public should not be libel for the infrastructure of widening and building of the roads, lighting, red lights, side walks, etc. The City is overextended on bonds, frivolous art, overwhelming cost of education, without regard if the people can pay for it or not. I think we are at the end of our issuing of bonds until the economy improves.

By: tomba1 on 10/6/11 at 2:10

Perhaps this will help spur on the redevelopment of the Bellevue Mall property into something that generates revenue for metro.

By: Rube Foster on 10/6/11 at 4:17

Snifs of the shady deal Memphis got with Electrolux, but not as bad. Not quite as blatant a give-away. Also, not as much is at stake here total, and Metro may get some money back, but how much?

That seems like a really huge development to be building at this point in time. With unemployment as high as it is, how is the demand for these future parcels there? (or there in 3-4 years?)

I would feel better if there was some issuance of these bonds by the IDB contingent on the development being 50% pre-sold or something to that nature. Yes, land is cheaper out in Bellevue, but filling up 1,000 acres of built homes, office space, and condos ANYWHERE, Bellevue or elsewhere, is a very tall order.

So who's on the hook if the development crashes or goes into bankruptcy (and the added assessment isn't paid back by the time the bond payments are due)?

Answer: The IDB Board - part of Metro Gov't (a.k.a. - you the taxpayer).

The benefit to Metro IDB issuing the bonds - IF everything goes ok, inflation is going to be wicked in this country 3-4 years from now, so Metro will maybe come out ahead in terms of issuing these bonds.

But this is a new precedent - every developer is going to come calling to the IDB board to get deals like this now. Cash upfront for development costs in exchange for future liabilities to Metro Gov't. It's a great deal for developers.

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