• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Brown-Forman to build 12 new warehouses

Asks court for property tax break

Officials from the makers of Woodford Reserve asked the county Tuesday night to issue up to $120 million worth of industrial building revenue bonds to help pay for up to 12 new whiskey barrel warehouses. The warehouses would be built on 100 acres of land that Brown-Forman hopes to purchase at 960 Georgetown Road in Midway. Each would be 90,000 square feet with a capacity of 65,000 barrels. The court discussed the matter for a good portion of a 75-minute meeting, but held off on a vote until its next meeting on April 12. In 2014, the court agreed to issue up to $60 million in bonds giving the company a property tax abatement on the increased value of the land for four new warehouses, each of which can store 65,000 barrels. Other tax rates, such as barrel and payroll taxes, were unaffected. The county holds the title to the improvements and Brown-Forman makes the lease payments. Mark Franklin of the law firm Stoll, Keenon and Ogden, said as was the case in 2014, the county would see no financial risk from the new bonds. The bond holder would be Early Times, a subsidiary of Brown-Forman. "What Brown-Forman would like to build is up to 12 new warehouses containing a lot of barrels of aging Woodford (Reserve). So that will increase the tax revenue substantially for the county in terms of the bond issue, even though you will be having a property tax abatement," Franklin said. Franklin said the company was asking the county to issue a series of bonds every two years, and that the company would, based upon demand, build two new warehouses every other year. The bonds and property tax abatement would last for 30 years. "The bonds will have no impact on the county's ability to borrow money ." Franklin said. "The county would not be liable for any debt service or payments for the bonds." Magistrate Duncan Gardiner (Dist. 6) asked if the warehouses would require a zone change for the property the company wishes to acquire. Brown-Forman vice president Mark Laney said they would ask the Versailles-Midway- Woodford County Planning Commission Thursday for a conditional agriculture zoning designation. Woodford County Attorney Alan George said he believed the court would like to know if the change has been approved before a vote on the bonds was taken. Magistrate C.L. Watts (Dist. 2) said he believed the court should hold a work session on the matter, to which Magistrate Ken Reed (Dist. 4) and Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle agreed. In response to a question from Magistrate Mary Ann Gill (Dist. 7), Timothy Eifler of Stoll-Keenon-Ogden said the property tax break would last for the length of the bonds. "And in return, we're going to fill those warehouses up with barrels of whiskey that are going to age, and once they're fully filled with whiskey and all the ages have now blended in, each warehouse is going to generate $152,000 a year in property taxes on the barrels," Eifler said. Gardiner asked what the company would pay in property taxes if the county didn't provide the tax abatements by issuing the industrial building revenue bonds. Laney said the tax break was worth about $70,000 per warehouse (including the value of the land), meaning the county would still net about $82,000 per warehouse. After several more questions, Coyle said the matter would be discussed at the end of the April 12 meeting, with a vote possible that evening. Huntertown Road sidewalk The court voted unanimously to approve a contract for the design phase for the Huntertown Road sidewalk project, a joint venture between the county and city of Versailles. The state will pay 80 percent of the $446,270 project. The vote included a $1,062 increase to pay a 1.5 percent charge by the Bluegrass Area Development District for the grant application process. Gill, the driving force for the 1.4-mile sidewalk, said the county is paying 54.9 percent of the cost and the city of Versailles 45.1 percent. Before the vote, Gill called the sidewalk a public safety issue, saying that within a half-mile of the area are eight day-care facilities, two schools, 50 businesses and 6,000 residents. Jack Jouett House rentals On the suggestion of Reed, the court voted unanimously to remove a 2011 provision allowing rentals of the Jack Jouett House. Reed said such events could damage the property, and that it hadn't rented in several years.

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