RIDGELAND — Financing for two more car dealerships was approved by aldermen in another split vote last week.

Aldermen were split approving a $2.4 million tax increment financing (TIF) agreement for the location off Sunnybrook Road along I-55.

Aldermen voted 4-3 last Tuesday to approve the TIF for the proposed Sunny Brook Automotive project, which includes Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith, Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard and Ward 5 Alderman Bill Lee voted against the resolution.

Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier made the motion and Ward 6 Alderman Wesley Hamlin seconded it.

After the motion, Mayor Gene F. McGee offered his support for the project.

“I think this is a high-quality development that meets a need and we should consider it for approval,” McGee said.

The project referred to as the Sunnybrook Road Automotive Project is set to be located off I-55 North by Patty Peck Honda. The project is with the Ritchie Group, which expects this to an over $20 million investment.

The TIF financing is a diversion of taxes collected that go to pay for infrastructure associated with the project.

During the public hearing last week, Ridgeland resident Gerald Beard said that he worried that the board was giving away taxpayer money too easily and would have trouble “saying no” to future developments if they weren’t careful.

Beard submitted a written statement and asked that regardless of the decision of the board that they make an effort to sit down and set guidelines for offering TIF financing in writing for future proceedings. He asked that citizens be invited to sit in on those discussions and give their input.

Gautier assured Beard that this development had been carefully considered by all aldermen and was up to the high standards of the city.

“I appreciate Mr. Beard’s input but in response to his concerns about being able to say ‘no,’ I want to say that most developments don’t make it this far. We have said ‘no’ and we think this project is a good fit for what we are trying to do in Ridgeland and will bring a good bit of money into our schools,” Gautier said.

Ward 4 Alderman Brian Ramsey voted for the resolution but agreed that the city should agree on some guidelines and get them in writing somewhere.

Heard said that he “recognized the quality of the project” but would vote ’nay’ as he had in past projects such as the neighboring Higginbotham Automotive TIF that brought Mercedes Benz to town.

Smith voiced his disapproval saying that he believed they had passed appropriate TIFs in the past that had yielded “cascading effects” but did not see moving a car dealership a mile down the road from Jackson as justification for TIF financing.

“In the past we have seen results. We attracted businesses that attracted people to our community which builds houses and attracts visitors to our community to eat and shop at other stores. Giving tax money to businesses to move a mile down the road does not yield those cascading effects and puts our tax base on the hook for it,” Smith said. “Basically we are making a decision tonight how to spend a certain amount of money over the next 15 years.”

A representative for the dealership project said they expected the TIF to be up to $2.3 million and estimated increases in taxes come at $33,000 for the county, $20,000 for the city and $55,000 for the Madison County School District, he said last Tuesday.

Reimbursement would be based on projections based on the performance of the business in its first year of operation. The development has applied for similar financing from the county. The public hearing is set for the Dec. 4 meeting.

Developers hope to break ground late in the first quarter of 2018. They said they expect sales up to $55 million and based on their analysis found that that closest use for that land was a hotel, which they projected could generate as much as $10 million in annual revenue.

The new dealership is expected to be made up of two adjacent dealerships, each about 20,000 square feet and about 55 jobs per dealership with an average annual salary of $60,000.

Mercedes-Benz of Jackson was recently approved for TIF financing not to exceed $3.3 million for their new location at the corner of Steed and Sunnybrook Road. The TIF passed 4-3 in July 2016 with Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Holder and Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith voting no.

The 70,000-square foot dealership opened Nov. 20.