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Citizens to Decide on Redevelopment Powers in November

Peachtree Corners voters will decide in the fall whether to approve a referendum that would give the city a financing tool to help fund public projects.

The City Council unanimously approved the resolution to add a referendum to the November ballot.
The City Council unanimously approved the resolution to add a referendum to the November ballot.
The Peachtree Corners City Council voted 7-0 in favor of adding a referendum to the Nov. 5 ballot to give voters an opportunity to approve a redevelopment financing tool known as redevelopment powers.

If approved, it would give the city the ability to create tax allocation districts (TADs), which are used to assist in the financing of a blighted area or under-developed area of a city.

"I knew there would be some immediate interest," said Mayor Mike Mason in his opening statements acknowledging that some residents would be concerned that it would grant additional powers to city leaders.

"This has nothing to do with the three city services," said the city's Community Development Director Diana Wheeler as she explained its purpose.

The name, redevelopment powers conjures up images of unfettered power by city leaders acknowledged Wheeler. "But it's a financing mechanism, that's all it is," she explained. "It's a Georgia law enacted almost 30 years ago to help cities finance areas that needed to be redeveloped."

A few fast facts about redevelopment powers:

1. The Georgia Redevelopment Powers law was enacted in 1985 to help with the redevelopment of undeveloped, under-developed and economically depressed areas.

2. The law authorizes the use of tax allocation bonds to finance infrastructure such as parking garages, public plazas and town squares within a tax allocation district (TAD).

3. Redevelopment Powers are not new. Voters in over 30 cities in the state have approved the law including Alpharetta, Marietta, Kennesaw, Duluth and Roswell.

Wheeler provided the following example on how TADs work:
  • Say the property taxes on a vacant piece of property are $10,000 per year.
  • Then the property is developed and the taxes on the improved property is $100,000 per year.
  • If the property is part of a TAD, the property taxes are frozen at the vacant land rate ($10,000 per year).
  • After the land is developed, the property owner pays the improved property rate ($100,000).
  • However, the $90,000 difference between the $10,000 and $100,000 in property taxes is kept in a separate account and pledged (over a period of 20 years) toward improvements to a specific project.
"It increases property values in the surrounding areas," said Wheeler. "But it does not raise taxes and does not expand the city services. It's simply a mechanism to help fund certain projects."

However, one citizens urged that the city use caution moving forward. Ali Stinson, who spoke during the public comment period, was concerned that the referendum would come before voters in an off year when voter turnout is generally lower.

"We need maximum voter turnout," said Stinson who said that referendums should only be placed on the ballot on "major voting years."

The law requires that citizens decide by referendum vote whether to approve the redevelopment powers for the city.

"It's an excellent tool," said Wheeler. "It allows TAD funds to pay for public improvements that would otherwise not get built. We owe it to our community to try."

UHaveGotToBeKidding September 04, 2013 at 05:01 PM
tax allocation district (TAD) and Tax increment financing (TIF), is the way it is financed
David B. Manley September 04, 2013 at 05:27 PM
I find Kidding's statement telling, "as investment in an area increases, it is not uncommon for real estate values to rise and for gentrification to occur." This is a problem? "Some question" "often wrong" "some" "can allow" "arguably." If we were to adopt a "chicken little, the sky is falling" mentality, nothing positive would ever get done. Anything ordinarily positive can be "abused." Anything. I believe our elected council members, who are our neighbors, will carefully decide how redevelopment proceeds. Areas of our city certainly need it. Let's not miss opportunities because of "boogeyman" and "straw-man" arguments.
UHaveGotToBeKidding September 04, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Awe…I see the city’s pit bull has come out again. Welcome back David Manly. 1.Being concerned about how our city grows is not a "chicken little, the sky is falling" mentality. It is concerned citizens wondering are we taking on too much to fast without the knowledge of the pros and cons of TADs and TIFs. 2.These are not "boogeyman" and "straw-man" arguments as you phrase it. We are all still waiting to see what happens to the 20 acre purchase across from the Forum. Will apartments go on the property that we so desperately needed to stop? If so, did we really need to pay 3 plus million more dollars for the property? 3.Who in our new city has experience with TIFs? If any, what is the record of how it performed? 4.Who in our new city has experience in overseeing redevelopment? 5.Who pays the bond if the developer defaults?
UHaveGotToBeKidding September 04, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Ali i am not on facebook: Here are some links: chicagoist.com/2012/11/01/rahm_proposes_shutting_down_8_tif_d.php‎ http://www.gmanet.com/MDR.aspx?CNID=22896 1. aysps.gsu.edu/publications/TAD_compiled.pdf‎ http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/01/26/When-Will-California-Redevelopment-Agencies-Start-Defaulting
Mim Harris September 04, 2013 at 06:11 PM
I am not sure yet how I feel about the TAD but I do not like sitting in a Council meeting and only hearing the positives on a subject. Ms. Wheeler and all the council members only spoke of benefits. They claimed that this is a great way for development with no downside. Reading up on the subject I see both benefits and dangers. Its concerning that our officials fail to see them both. How can they protect the city from dangers of TAD's if they do not know what they are? I am tired of our Council and Mayor heading into issues so quickly without complete research. Purchasing the Roberts property was done quickly and now they need the TAD to make sure that property has parking garages and green space. If the property has real value and the development they desire is to be so successful why does a developer need tax breaks? This is of great concern to me as a citizen. Slow down Council and Mayor! This should NOT be on the Nov ballot and should be postponed until next year so everyone has time to be completely informed.
Juan Blanco September 04, 2013 at 07:51 PM
TIF, TAD and the other... Our governing body needs to stop plowing through changes, projects and resolutions, and start doing a better job at selling this type of massive modifications to their original mandate. Specially, when we are now looking to expand their scope and grant them the POWER to develop and or re-develop by using a State mechanism that taps into educational funds. If these so called bonds are at all tied or guaranteed by a portion of our educational funds, I AM COMPLETELY AGAINST IT. So, sell me on this. Convince me to vote for it! The way I see it right now, the only people that can benefit from this either work for our governing body, are lenders or developers, or have consulting contracts with the city. One more question… I would like to know if any of the developers bidding for the 20 acres have expressed concerns about their ability to fulfill the vision without some sort of funding assistance from the city. You know…A HAND OUT!
Bob Martell September 04, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Great point Juan, so far nobody at city hall has even tried to explain WHY we need to do this, or why we need to do it now...just because Norcross (or Waycross) can do it, doesn't mean we can. Or should! What do they want to redevelop and when and how? They haven't 'properly disposed' of the last $12 Million worth of property they bought without asking our permission. Why should we trust them with more, unspecified power? Remember, we are only about 18 months into this experiment in a 'three service, city-lite' and they've still only accomplished 1/2 of the original mandate. We may have a contract for cheaper trash, but it will be four months from now until the first can of cheaper trash is picked up...and although we hear about the hiring of more code enforcement officers- without a municipal court its still based on voluntary compliance. Why should we give them more powers when they haven't fulfilled the original promises yet?
David B. Manley September 04, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Since our mayor and council have reduced the city property tax from .8mil to zero and our garbage collection will now be less expensive, the nay sayers move on to other topics. If the sun is shinning, some say its too hot; if it's cloudy they wonder were the sun is. If other cities use redevelopment powers, there must be something wrong with those cities. I trust the council will explore all the benefits and potential problems before using any redevelopment power. Besides their own research, the council members have the experienced and professional city manager and community development director as resources. For those who have criticisms and questions, their council members don't go into hiding after council meetings and are accessible. I have no problem communicating with my council members (as well as the mayor). I suggest those who wish to be negative do something constructive for a change, contact their council members and address their concerns with them.
Juan Blanco September 04, 2013 at 09:13 PM
First of all, I want to thank Judy for giving us a great venue to express our opinions. ;-) Now, I was under the impression that these are elected officials and that their duty and responsibility includes convincing us, residents and tax paying voters, that this is a good thing for us and WHY. Not sure about the koolaid drinking Yay-Sayers, but I don't want politicians making decisions that COULD impact my property and its value without full disclosure and clear understanding of the positive and negative consequences. And I don't think yesterday's presentation was completely adequate. It lacked substance and a clear understanding of the intended use of this program other than a large parking deck and another pretty park. Again, I don't have any issue finding parking space anywhere. And I think we have some pretty decent parks already. So, here I am...sell me on the idea... convince me that this is a good deal for all the Nay Sayers... ;-)
David B. Manley September 04, 2013 at 09:28 PM
It's interesting to me that those who criticize, or who want convincing, can take the time to comment, but don't have the time to pick up the phone and call their council member.
Mary September 05, 2013 at 01:10 AM
I think that Mr. Blanco's post at 347pm is prescient. However, would not the council (if they gain the non-change but additional power) have to proclaim that the former Roberts property AFF (across from Forum) was blighted? Could anyone do that with a straight face? I appreciate the information and thoughtful concerns that are attached to this article. The rest of the story. Too bad that the pros and cons of an idea are not presented at the council meeting (and then reported). One can always present both sides of an issue, and then explain why one side has benefits to outweigh the risks. I agree with Mr. Manley's suggestion and hope that you well spoken people present your ideas and concerns to your council reps. I have stopped attending the council meetings as no one responds, on advice of the legal council. Get face to face with your council reps and assess their explanations.
Ali Stinson September 05, 2013 at 09:34 AM
Please take a look at Bob Martell's blog post about TADs from March of this year. It lays out both sides very well. It is available here: http://www.peachtreecornersfacts.blogspot.com/
Ali Stinson September 05, 2013 at 09:50 AM
Please know that me and many of the others posting here are not doing so in a vacuum. We have met with, wrote to, and talked to council members before and after meetings on many topics since incorporation including this topic. Those conversations have not all been very satisfactory for several reasons 1. The council had already decided what to do and the member or members had dug in on their opinion. It was too late to influence them. They do not want to hear evidence that at all contradicts their decision. 2. Many are willing to say one thing at one time and do another. They are not deterred by our ability to quote them back to themselves, pointing out the contradictions and broken promises. They will redefine the meaning of "is" to justify their flip flop if necessary. 3. Many ran on and went into office articulating the same philosophy that Thomas Paine so eloquently expressed "Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one." Many expressed a need to constrain government, limit its power, and preserve the ideals of limited, very limited government. But once sworn into office, a narcissism has come over them. They now operate as though government is the solution - perhaps because they are all so wise. They are at times condescending to those of us who wish to vet the decisions, explore all sides, look for ways this can all go wrong so that the risks are mitigated. We get platitudes and Joe Isuzu "trust me" rhetoric. Thus we take our concerns and arguments to fellow citizens in hopes that in mass we can have the influence that one on one dialogue is not producing.
CARIV September 05, 2013 at 02:16 PM
TADs and TIFs are very effective tools for economic development, but like many things these tools can be misused. Governance and oversight will always be important. I think our elected officials are doing a good job and are well intentioned. It seems that we have active citizens who do not mind asking hard questions and expressing their concerns to the Mayor and city council members. I was somewhat surprised that three of the city council members are running unopposed. If they were doing a bad job or not listening to constituents, then I might have thought they would have had some competition.
Allan Peel September 05, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Hi David ... With all due respect (as I do not want to start a flame-war here), but your initial comments (on 9/4/2013 above) seem to suggest that since many "other" cities already have (and have used) these redevelopment powers to improve their cities, so should it be for Peachtree Corner. You don't seem to understand what all the fuss is from all us Nay-Sayers. Simple question for you then ... what "other" city LITE can you point to that has and uses such powers? Can you (or Ms. Wheeler, or any of our elected City Council/Mayor) name a SINGLE City Lite that has used these powers? If not, then please do not attack us 'nay-sayers' for simply wanting the council to adhere to the promises that they made during the election campaign - that is that they would not turn this into another form of big government and go beyond the responsibilities of the three services that were promised. Land Purchases and/or Redevelopment, etc. were NOT part of the City Lite campaign promises. Is it really too much to ask that the council stick to their promises?
David B. Manley September 05, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Peachtree Corners is unique as far as I know as the only city of its "city lite" type; however, in common with full service cities, our citizens voted so that we could have control over zoning and development which impacts us all. Besides just saying nay for the sake of being oppositional, I don't understand how improving areas of our city to the benefit of us all is a bad idea.
David B. Manley September 05, 2013 at 06:19 PM
If the council was doing such a poor job, Al, I wonder why there was no one to run against the three members up for reelection. You do not name names, or state the exact contents of your communications with council members, but you attack them with generalities and vindictive. It appears that you condemn our council members just because they disagree with what you believe to be correct, those contradicting your one-sided view be damned.
Steve Rausch September 06, 2013 at 01:51 PM
David, this group in the council reminds me of the old time Democratic Georgia party, all afraid of being out of lockstep with the others for fear of punishment from the top. Just once I'd love to see a open public debate of an issue where someone actually expresses a difference of opinion from the rest of the puppets. Everyone promised open meets, not happening, promised citizens full disclosure of business before votes, not happening, promised conservative spending without unnecessary staff, not happening.......on and on it goes. Why are they running unopposed? I suppose others, like me, have jobs that require extensive travel and we couldn't make many meetings. That certainly doesn't imply that I'm in any way satisfied with this current group.
Juan Blanco September 06, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Hear, hear... to Mr. Rausch !!
Rob Northrup September 06, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Governments always grow larger, they always add to their responsibility. They add new powers. They never voluntarily give up any power no matter how small. They increase the scope of what they regulate. They never decrease their scope. Of course every increase in govt responsibility is a decrease in personal responsibility. And it doesn't matter if it is a homeowners association, or a "city-lite", or a county, or a regional authority, or a state, or a country... They are all so damned sure that they know better than ordinary citizens how everything should run. That's why establishing the City of Peachtree Corners was a bad idea from the start.
Lee Ann Novak Early September 08, 2013 at 04:33 PM
from what I was reading about TADs (http://www.gmanet.com/MDR.aspx?CNID=22896), there's potentially much more impact on individual citizens than shown in the example. Of course, we were also misled about the entire 'city-lite' concept as well...
David B. Manley September 09, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Steve, I don't understand how the council has "fear of punishment from the top." This statement is illogical. The continued employment of a council member is up to the voters and no one else. What you conveniently ignore is the possibility that a unanimous vote on a topic just reflects agreement that the item is believed to be a good idea. Restrictions on meeting discussions or disclosures, if any, are due to legal requirements, not choice by the council members. In any event, you have the ability to discuss a matter with one's council members. If you have the time to comment here, you have the time to contact your council members. The city has a clerk, a manager, some code enforcement personnel, and a developments director in keeping with the purposes and function of the city, all with property taxes of zero. Apparently either the great group of those opposed to the actions of the council are traveling, or they, and you, are in a small minority.
David B. Manley September 09, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Rob, as a general proposition your views about government growth appear to have some foundation; nonetheless, there are things government can accomplish that individuals cannot. Unless you are an anarchist, you have to believe there is a place for government. If you want to be free of all government, you need to leave society. Never do we all agree on anything, but we live in a society where often the majority rules, and we find this preferable to an oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship, etc. Remember, also, that when we complain about government, we have met the enemy and it is us. In this particular case [tax allocation districts (TADs), which are used to assist in the financing of improvements to blighted or badly developed areas of a city] we can encourage capitalism to develop areas to the benefit of the investor as well as all of us. There is a vacuum in this particular case that government can fill by assisting individual capitalistic ventures, which seems a win-win for us all.
David B. Manley September 09, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Lee Ann, you left unnamed those who "misled" you on the city; however, since I understand the primary reason for having a city was to have local control of development, as well as code enforcement and lower cost garbage collection, it appears the council is fulfilling those reasons including now without any property taxes that were authorized.
Juan Blanco September 09, 2013 at 05:16 PM
This has nothing to do with agreeing or not. It’s all about clear and concise communication. Tell me what areas of the city are clearly classified as “blighted or badly developed areas” and allow the so called "small minority” or better yet, non-koolaid drinking– Nay-Sayers, to have a clear vision and understanding of the rationale for utilizing so called tax funds to help "private investors" develop/re-develop land. Disclose, disclose, disclose... Whether I agree or not with elected officials, transparency is key to a successful democracy. Again, I am going to ask the same question I have been asking over and over and over. Are we running into an issue with the funding to develop the old “Roberts” property, now called “City Center”? Is the push for these NEW POWERS directly related to the development of our soon to be “downtown” area? If not, then just say so. Pin down or show all zones, areas or neighborhoods we are earmarking for TAD and LETS MOVE ON! If the push is directly related to the lack of love shown by any of the mega developers that are vying to develop our new “City Center (Downtown)”? Then that will more than likely finish extinguishing whatever little credibility this governing body may have, at least with me. Question… Can we use the TAD program to help fund the building of a brand new City Hall along with an amphitheater in one of the most affluent areas within our city? I’m all ears…Bueller?? Bueller??
David B. Manley September 09, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Juan. Pick up the phone. Call your council members. If you don't have a phone, you can borrow mine.
Allan Peel September 10, 2013 at 11:20 AM
David M .. please try to remain civil and courteous in your posts. While I agree that we can and should discuss this directly with our council, there is NOTHING wrong with also having an open discussion forum for the citizens to also debate the issues (this one, or others). Just because some folks may not agree with you, it is no reason to belittle them or inject snide (and not so subtle or useful) comments as you have recently. Your comments will only discourage people from participating in this forum, and as such, we all lose an opportunity to learn BOTH sides of the issue so that we can vote INTELLIGENTLY on the upcoming ballot in November (assuming the council moves forward with this). Personally, I am very concerned that the question that is ultimately posed on the ballot will be extremely misleading and suggestive (too often I see ballot questions that are so biased in favor of a 'Yes' vote as to be non-reflective of the true feelings of the citizens ... the recent referendum of charter schools being one example). Thus the importance of an open and frank discussion amongst concerned parties, without personal attacks is very helpful.
Lee Ann Novak Early September 10, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Just curious...since a TAD must have a very specific boundary, and is intended for "a specific geographic area that has the potential for redevelopment, but which suffers from blight or other “economically or socially distressed” conditions," where would the legislatively-created City Redevelopment Agency likely be implementing the first Peachtree Corners TAD? Surely not anywhere near the former 'Roberts Property,' because that is most definitely not an 'economically blighted' area...?
Mary September 10, 2013 at 02:59 PM
I find the above reference to "facts" appealing. I would like to hear the "facts" about what area(s) of our community inspired the Peachtree Corners council to request voter permission for "Redevelopment Powers". I hope readers will do the same.
David B. Manley September 10, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Allan P, I am sorry that my comments do not meet with your claimed standards and condescending position. My comments are as civil and courteous as the comments to which I am responding. You seem to confuse a personal attack with a pointed response to a factually unsupported comment. I find interesting that you do not comment on the various direct and indirect unfounded attacks on those not even participating in this thread when those attacks support your position ("I am tired of our Council and Mayor heading into issues without complete research..." "[W]hy should we trust them..." "[M]any are willing to say one thing at one time and do another..." "platitudes and Joe Isuzu 'trust me' rhetoric..." "afraid of being out of lockstep..." "we were also misled...""puppets", "[T]hey are all so damned sure..." "[Y]ou don't seem to understand..." "whatever little credibility this governing body may have...," "[I]s it really too much to ask that the council stick to their promises...," etc., etc., etc.). I suppose saying, without basis, that our elected representatives have little credibility is your idea of civility, courtesy, and is not a personal attack. It seems to me that you try to couch your comments with courteous words while passive-aggressively doing what you condemn, all while being condescending toward those commenting who seem well able to take care of themselves without your help. I submit that those who will be discouraged from participating in this forum are those who do not have facts to back their positions and accusations, which discouragement will benefit a reasoned discussion rather than a free-for-all against those not here to defend themselves.


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