For years, the property just off Interstate 65 in Franklin has been empty with back taxes continuing to build up.

But the city sees the nearly 3-acre property as a key piece of the redevelopment of the east side of the city.

Already, the city has invested in bringing infrastructure, including water and sewer lines, to the area, added a new roundabout and improved the gateway into the city. And the hope is that new restaurants, businesses and hotels will follow.

The former Red Carpet Inn property, located off Paris Drive, just west of I-65, has been a big part of those discussions, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

“We do have a development on the horizon. It’s not solely dependent in this property, but close to it,” McGuinness said.

Now, the city is working with the county to reach an agreement to turn the property over, forgiving more than $358,000 in back taxes and liens, allowing the city to get the property more easily redeveloped.

The discussion is one that has been going on for years. Most recently, the property was sent to a county auction, with a minimum bid of $9,500, to get it off the list of abandoned properties with unpaid taxes that repeatedly come up in the annual tax sale. At that sale, set for February, anyone could bid on the property.

McGuinness is hopeful the city can still get the property from the county with those old taxes forgiven, a process that has been used for other properties in Franklin and has been discussed before for the former motel property.

The city and the county are working on an agreement to make that happen, McGuinness said.

Johnson County Commissioner Ron West said the county and city would both like to see the property developed, and property taxes being paid again.

The issue stems from a stalled agreement where the county was willing to give the city the former motel property, in exchange for a long-term agreement for parking in downtown Franklin, where most county offices are located.

McGuinness said the city was willing to give the county the parking spaces for county employees, and had asked how many parking spaces the county wanted and for how long. The city never heard back, he said.

West said the county told the city they wanted a 25-year agreement for parking spaces near the courthouse annex building, and then never heard back from the city.

County officials decided to send the vacant property to certificate sale, with the goal of getting it developed and filled, West said. The tax certificate sale, or commissioners sale, allows the county to try to sell properties for a percentage of the overdue taxes, instead of the annual tax sale, where the lowest bid is the taxes owed. Buyers also have a shorter waiting period, meaning they could get a deed for a home or lot more quickly than if they bought it through the tax sale.

The lowered amount does not include the total back taxes and penalties owed, and does not include liens on the property from the city, including for mowing the property and demolishing the former motel building — which cost more about $80,000 alone.

That was also a concern for McGuinness, he said.

The sale is set for Feb. 14 and includes five properties that have not previously sold at tax sale. West has been working to lower the number of properties that repeatedly don’t sell at tax sale by either offering them for a lower price at certificate sale or removing their value so they are no longer taxed, he said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.