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Flowery Branch plans for the ‘gem’ of South Hall

Public hearing today for tax allocation district

POSTED: November 19, 2007 5:03 a.m.

The Flowery Branch City Council will hold a public hearing this evening to get resident input on the first draft of the tax allocation district plan that seeks to make the growing city the "gem of South Hall."

On Sept. 18, Flowery Branch voters approved the tax district, which is intended to fund improvements to make areas of Flowery Branch attractive to private developers.

As City Council members anticipate rapid growth in the South Hall area, the district is being implemented as an economic tool to primarily fund the expansion of the city’s sewer capacity and to redevelop and expand the downtown historic district on Main Street.

The district generates revenue for public infrastructure projects with no direct cost to taxpayers, officials say. A tax allocation district is a designated area in which improvements are financed by bonds issued by the local government, according to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The local government, in this case Flowery Branch, uses the expected increase in tax revenue generated by the higher property values in the area to pay off those bonds.

The first draft of the district defines the geographic boundaries of the 567-acre district, which encompasses the majority of the area between the historic district and the underdeveloped commercial corridors near Interstate 985. The district includes portions of Thurmond Tanner Parkway, Atlanta Highway, Phil Niekro Boulevard and Spout Springs Road.

The city developed a 2025 Comprehensive Plan in June 2006 that aims to preserve the small town feel of Flowery Branch while simultaneously expanding water and sewer facilities to accommodate economic development that, upon the revitalization of the area, may include "a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants, civic uses and housing and the installation of sidewalks and streetscapes" that "will be the gem of South Hall."

Tax bills will not change, whether or not residents are located in the tax allocation district, Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said. "There’s no increase of taxes or decrease of taxes associated with the TAD. It’s just how those tax dollars are used."

As public infrastructure projects begin to take effect after Jan. 1, assessed property values will likely rise, Andrew said, making Flowery Branch more inviting for investors and developers. In turn, as property values rise, the Hall County school board and Hall County government have agreed to forego the incremental change in property tax revenue, allowing the difference in assessed property value and its resulting increase in tax revenue to be pooled into a fund for the district.

And the reason these governments agree to forego a portion of the tax revenue is because without the district, an increase in Flowery Branch property values is not likely to occur, Flowery Branch Planning Director James Riker said.

According to the plan drafted by the Atlanta-based consultation company Bleakly Advisory Group, the district could generate $11.2 million in bonds to fund infrastructure improvements within the TAD boundaries.

The Bleakly Advisory Group has also worked with the cities of Gainesville and Oakwood to develop tax allocation districts.

Andrew said roughly $8 million of those proceeds will be used to double the sewer capacity of the city’s wastewater treatment plant from 1 million gallons to 2 million gallons. He said that construction on the project would begin within two years.

The area set for redevelopment is largely made up of underdeveloped property, and contains a substantial portion of renter-occupied or lower-income single-parent homes.

"Portions of that area are economically depressed," Andrew said.

Flowery Branch intends to revitalize to create a mixed-use area that would include residential, retail and commercial development.

But the infrastructure must be in place before developers can feasibly build in the area. Andrew said some of the funding may be used to reopen Pine Street and extend it from Lights Ferry Road to Railroad Avenue to give developers access for construction projects.

Some city streets are currently being revamped as a result of a $321,600 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"We’re hopeful that what all of our citizens will see is an improved downtown area and an expanded wastewater treatment system that will encourage the type of growth we’re looking for here in the community and will revitalize the depressed area of our town," Riker said. "The key is we’re adding value to our existing residences whether you’re inside the TAD or outside the TAD."



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