RIDGELAND — City officials voted to approve tax increment financing (TIF) for a project including a new Mercedes-Benz dealership here.

The current Mercedes of Jackson has plans to relocate to a new 70,000 square-foot building on Steed Road and Sunnybrook Road.

Aldermen were split on the TIF plan but it ultimately passed 4-3, with Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Holder and Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith voting against.

The TIF plan covers up to $3.3 million and will be used to provide infrastructure improvements in the proposed area.

Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier said that in his work in commercial real estate he has seen a demand for more car dealerships in Ridgeland.

“I feel pretty comfortable with this project,” he said. “The demand is here. Believe it or not based on the numbers I have seen one of the only things we don’t have a surplus of is car dealerships.”

Ward 5 Alderman Scott Jones said that Mercedes-Benz is “in a class of car that the Renaissance is in shopping.”

Holder said that he “did not have warm fuzzy feelings about TIFs.” While no TIF in particular was named, officials made several references to bad TIF’s they had seen.

“The project looks great but I am going to have to vote no on issuing the TIF,” Holder said.

Smith said that he thought the TIF was improper based on what he understood TIFs were meant to benefit.

“This property is not appropriate for a TIF because I believe the state guidelines say they are for developing blighted areas and this is not blighted area,” Smith said. “We do have several blighted areas this could benefit.”

He said the property is some of the most desirable in the county and thought a TIF would be the equivalent of “paying a ransom or bribe” to get a business to move a few miles down the road from Jackson. He added that he believed a number of businesses would be interested in the location and they did not need to give special treatment to any particular one.

“We have the most TIF districts in the county,” Smith said.

 “We also have the largest budget,” Jones responded.

Ward 6 Alderman Wesley Hamlin said that he was comfortable with the project because no bonds would be issued until at least nine months after the dealership had opened and by the time decisions were being made they would likely have a year or more of performance data from the business off of which to base bond issuance.

While voting Ward 4 Alderman Brian Ramsey, who was originally against the TIF, said “I’ll give it to you” before voting “aye.”

City officials expect to see a boost to school taxes. Projections expect to see an increase from $205 currently collected on the property to $77,304. School taxes went from $50,000 to $2,180,000 on the Colony Park TIF.

A development agreement for the site passed 5-2 with Smith and Heard voting against.

Approval to rezone the property from MU-1 to C-4, issuance of a conditional use permit for car dealership and site plans were all approved unanimously.

Trudy Higginbotham-Moody, co-owner and president of Mercedes-Benz of Jackson, said the facility is needed to meet strong sales demand and she noted the 10-acre site would allow ample room for future growth.

“Simply put we were land locked, even after two expansions in recent years,” said Higginbotham-Moody. “We carefully studied several options that would allow us to best serve our customers. We looked at possible sites in all three counties in the metro area as well as expanding our current location.”

The Higginbotham family acquired the dealership currently located at I-55 north in Jackson in 2001 and now is rated as one of the top 30 Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the country with the company’s Best of the Best Dealer Recognition Award. The honor is based on the highest levels of customer satisfaction, market penetration and performance determined by the company.

Groundbreaking is expected to start as early as September by White Construction of Ridgeland with a target-opening window of Fall 2017.

Higginbotham Automotive also runs Porsche of Jackson, which will maintain at its location on I-55 near the current Mercedes-Benz location, as well as Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Collierville, Tennessee.