Oak Ridge City Council members on Tuesday suggested next steps for Main Street Oak Ridge. The discussion occurred about a week after Council rejected a revised plan for the second phase of the project in a 4-3 vote, creating uncertainty about what will happen next. The Tuesday evening discussion was meant to help guide Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson in his conversations with RealtyLink, the developer.
The four City Council members who voted against the revised plan expressed a range of concerns on Tuesday that included having a main entrance, ensuring that there is a way to get into and see the center of Main Street, and making sure the project is walkable and has a comprehensive system of sidewalks. Individually or collectively, they objected to the proposed layout of the buildings as the site prepared to welcome a second wave of tenants, advocated for a public forum on the project, and mentioned the importance of mixed-use development. (Mixed-use developments can include retailers and residential and commercial units, among other possibilities.)
The three Council members who voted for the revised plan continued to stress the potential benefits of welcoming four new national retailers to Oak Ridge, pointed out that RealtyLink has spent tens of millions of dollars here, and emphasized the importance of the potential sales tax revenues. They said those revenues will be crucial to help pay off such debts as the renovation of Oak Ridge High School. That debt is expected to spike in 2022 and 2023, about the same time as the city will permanently lose its revenues from the state’s Hall income tax, Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said.
Gooch issued a dire warning about the possibility of city inaction bringing the project to a standstill on Tuesday.
“The clock is running, and it’s going to impact us going forward,” Gooch said. “I view this as absolutely imperative to go forward. The fiscal viability of this city is at risk.”
The Council members who have raised concerns and voted against the revised plan on Monday, January 14, have stressed the importance of making sure that the city and developer pursue the best development option. They have said they want to ensure the project’s long-term success.
Here is a summary of some of the city officials’ comments from the Tuesday night non-voting work session: [Read more…]