Talks have begun between Coffee County and Manchester City officials regarding a sewer project that would allow commercial development in the Exit-105 area in northern Coffee County.
Last year, when talks about renovating North Coffee Elementary School started, the county initiated discussions of extending the lines from the sewer system of Manchester City to the Exit-105 area.
Since the school would need an upgraded sewer system, county officials suggested not only updating the sewer system of the school but also providing additional sewer capacity that would allow commercial development in the area.
With nearby Rutherford County consistently growing outward, being proactive and prepared for an influx of new Coffee County residents would be not only beneficial but also necessary, according to Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell.
To complete the project, even though the Exit-105 area is in rural Coffee County, the county would need the assistance of Manchester City.
The county first approached the city in April last year, according to Cordell.
“(The project) is contingent upon the Manchester sewer line being extended from the city limits all the way to North Coffee School under Interstate 24,” Cordell said. “We can’t do it without Manchester City – they will supply the labor for the sewer system.
“We want to add on to the existing system – which is in the city – and it’s 2.4 miles from there to Exit 105. Manchester City would have to provide the labor and have to install it and we will be providing the materials.”
County officials were told by Bryan Pennington, director of Manchester Water and Sewer Department, that the existing city sewer system would have enough capacity to extend the lines and provide services to the expanded system, said Cordell.
The sewer expansion would have the capacity to serve, for example, two 50-room hotels, a 2,400-square-foot retail store, a 100-seat restaurant and two convenience stores, according to Cordell.
“We discussed that back in April, and the Manchester Water and Sewer Commission OK’d that, and we sent it on to Manchester City to review,” Cordell said. “We were told the project would cost about $1.3 million.”
The county had planned to apply for a $327,500 USDA rural development grant to cover 25 percent of the costs, but the application was never submitted, said Cordell.
“We were in the process to complete the grant application when we stopped the process and we didn’t send the application,” Cordell said. “We possibly could send it later; we could put it back on the table, if we are given the green light to go ahead and proceed with that.”
Manchester City would have to agree before any further action is taken by the county.
“Now, the issue is thankfully back on the table,” Cordell said. “The City of Manchester discussed it about three weeks ago.”
Funding the project
“We were told in the discussion, that there will be enough sales tax and occupancy tax from the two hotels to fund the payment on that,” Cordell said.
If the county applies for and receives the USDA grant, the grant would cover just 25 percent of the project. The remaining expenses would be paid by the county, with the hope that when new businesses locate in area, the county will see a return on its investment by a way of tax revenue.
The county is currently in the process of adopting a lodging tax outside of the city limits. In June, the Coffee County Commission approved a resolution asking the state legislature to approve a private act that would establish a hotel-motel tax in rural Coffee County, exclusive of Manchester and Tullahoma. The next phase of the process requires a county representative in the General Assembly to introduce the bill to the General Assembly for a vote on the private act after the legislative session opens later this month.
Working with Manchester
The county would need approval to connect to the Manchester Water and Sewer Department’s infrastructure, according to Bryan Pennington, director of the department.
Cordell discussed the matter with Manchester Water and Sewer Commission on May, 3, 2018.
“Initially, the request centered on serving the North Coffee School and a small commercial corridor in the vicinity of I-24’s 105 exit,” Pennington said.
During the May 3 meeting, “an engineering report was made available that illustrated the work necessary to make the project viable and allow for a small business corridor,” according to the minutes of the meeting.
“Mayor Cordell pointed out to the commission that the sewer line and associated work would only be designed for the school and business corridor and was not intended to be for residential use due to capacity.”
According the minutes, “the county noted that this would be funded by the county government and the infrastructure would be donated to the Manchester Water and Sewer Department.”
Since then, Manchester City residential development has also been considered.
“During the Dec. 11, 2018, meeting between city and county officials, it was discussed to also provide a service area that included residential,” Pennington said.
Before determining the final cost of the infrastructure improvement, a scope of the project area will have to be developed outlining the service area.
“When this data is available, we would be able to determine if the Manchester Water and Sewer Department has the available capacity,” Pennington said. “Project cost would be directly related to the service area being requested. The service area will have to be defined before a determination on the project cost could be estimated.”
Infrastructure is essential
County commissioner Ashley Kraft is among those working to complete the project.
“We would need wider water and sewer lines down (Highway) 41 and under I-24 near the 105 Exit,” Kraft said. “We would also need a new water tower in the North Coffee district to support growth for the area.”
The county and city would also need to work together on this project.
“The county would like Manchester’s approval, as it is utilizing a water and sewer line that connects to the city lines,” Kraft said.
“Per a meeting that took place in mid-December, Manchester did agree with the project, but no discussion on the extent of the assistance has occurred,” Kraft said.
The area around Exit 105 is silently booming, said Kraft.
“Living near Exit 105, my home value has skyrocketed over the past five years and houses near me are selling in two days,” Kraft said. “We are slowly, but surely, seeing more and more interest in this part of the county from current Rutherford County citizens fleeing from growth; from Nashville residents who want affordable, country living; and from retirees who are finding that Coffee County is close enough to it all but still holds the small-town charm.”
The county is also getting ready for a renovation of North Coffee Elementary School to support more children, added Kraft.
“Development is coming for Exit 105,” Kraft said. “We just need to start planning for it now, so when it does occur, we’re not 30 years too late and in a bind.”
Is annexation possible?
Annexation has been mentioned. With the area expected to develop quickly once infrastructure is in place, the potential revenues are attractive and could significantly boost the coffers of the municipality in which the area is located.
“(Annexation) is always possible, but this has not been discussed,” Kraft said. “Also, annexing now requires land owner consent in rural areas.”
According to tn.gov, cities can annex property only with the written consent of the owner or by referendum.
“The area is outside of Manchester Urban Growth Boundary – we checked that through the codes office,” Cordell said. “And we were told that the property owners there will have to initiate that request for annexation. The property owners will have to agree on that.”
Elena Cawley can be reached via email at email@example.com.