The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission unanimously approved redevelopment plans for the county’s six tax allocation districts in a special called session Tuesday evening. The districts’ boundaries were designated in a Sept. 1 meeting, and the changes in taxes will take effect in 2021, county manager Blaine Williams said.
A tax allocation district, or TAD, is an area where redevelopment costs are financed by using positive incremental increases in property taxes generated by new development in the area. When a TAD is created, the Georgia Department of Revenue sets the base value for the district, and any growth in property tax revenues are collected in a special fund and used for redevelopment costs in the district.
The redevelopment areas in the plans include east downtown, the Lexington Highway and Gaines School Road area, the Georgia Square Mall area, the West Broad Street and Hawthorne Avenue area, the Newton Bridge area and the North Avenue area.
The redevelopment plans include a citizens advisory committee for each TAD, which will allow committee members to make recommendations to ACC on how to utilize redevelopment funds. They also include community benefits agreements, which state that if a private sector capital project receives TAD funds, the redeveloper must make agreements with the county to ensure the community within the TAD benefits from the project.
In July 2013, the Downtown Athens Master Plan was developed, which strongly recommended the county create a TAD in the eastern area of downtown. The mayor and commission has discussed implementing TADs in various areas of the county since May 2019, when Mayor Kelly Girtz requested the county’s planning department to develop policies to encourage mixed-income development, along with sources of funding such as TADs.
Now that redevelopment plans are approved, they will be sent to the Clarke County School District Board of Education, which can decide whether or not to participate in the TAD program. CCSD’s property taxes are also included in the redevelopment plan, and its participation would shorten the length of time the TADs have to remain in place.
Williams said he presented plans to members of the board last Thursday, and he expects them to convene to consider participating toward the end of November. He said the board could not vote on participating until the redevelopment plans had been approved.
The mayor and commission held another special called session Monday evening to receive public input on the TAD redevelopment plans.
Cshanyce Allen, who owns Innovative Healthcare Institute, said she supports the establishment of the TAD in the east downtown area, but is opposed to the development of multifamily housing in the area because it could create traffic problems.
COVID-19 ordinance enforcement
In a work session immediately following Tuesday’s special called session, Williams gave the mayor and commission an update on the county’s COVID-19 response. He said the county is “in pretty good shape” regarding its relatively stable number of COVID-19 cases.
The ACC Police Department conducted 281 bar occupancy checks on the weekends between Oct. 9 and 31, and found a total of seven bars not complying with occupancy limits. Six of the seven violations occurred on the weekend of Oct. 9, the weekend of the football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers. The other violation occurred on Oct. 23.
The ACCPD distributed 1,615 face masks to people who did not have them and issued 1,128 warnings for noncompliance with the county’s mask requirement between Oct. 9 and 31. No citations were issued for noncompliance.
Williams said the county’s Community Corps program, which aims to help residents learn career skills through paid jobs with the county, is anticipated to have its first team hired and ready to begin work just after Thanksgiving.
The county’s leisure services department offered free Wi-Fi to students in the county who needed it when the CCSD was conducting all of its learning virtually. A total of 648 students made use of the Wi-Fi for the month of October, and leisure services recruited volunteers to support more students in the facilities, but volunteer support did not reach the levels needed. The free Wi-Fi program will be placed on hold as CCSD returns students to the classroom in November.
During the special called session, the mayor and commission also unanimously voted to grant a total of $19,290 to Pulaski Heights BBQ and M3Yoga through the county’s Joint Development Authority with the city of Winterville. The money will come from unallocated funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The businesses were initially denied grants from the JDA’s Small Business Emergency Grant program, but were later found to be eligible for grants.