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Supreme Court ruling won't stop Flowery Branch's tax allocation district

POSTED: April 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Despite the recent Georgia Supreme Court ruling disqualifying school tax revenues as a source of funding for tax allocation districts, Flowery Branch officials said Wednesday they will continue plans to implement a tax district for the city.

Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said city officials have a meeting scheduled with Hall County officials on April 17 to discuss the possibility of using only county tax revenues to fund a Flowery Branch TAD.

Prior to the Georgia Supreme Court ruling made Feb. 11, Flowery Branch intended to finance tax allocation district projects using bonds purchased with school and county tax revenues. The original goal of the tax district was to boost property values within the defined district by using school and county tax revenues to spur redevelopment projects in the city’s historic downtown area and to double capacity at the Flowery Branch wastewater facility to 2 million gallons.

Andrew said the disqualification of school tax revenues in financing tax allocation districts will not stop Flowery Branch tax allocation district projects, but it will slow down the process.

"Our goal, in large measure, is still the same," Andrew said. "But now we may be looking at a pay-as-you-go system rather than TAD-bond financing. We hope the school funds will be an option for us next year."

Billboard signs were the primary topic of discussion at the Flowery Branch City Council meeting Wednesday.

Flowery Branch Planning Director James Riker briefed council members on the legal and financial issues surrounding trivision signs, which revolve to display multiple signs on the same billboard, and electrical signs that use light-emitting diodes. The issue of new technology signs came before the City Council as zoning ordinances require updating in order to address advancements in the billboard industry.

Flowery Branch is currently under a sign moratorium that is slated to last until May 21 while the council devises an ordinance to adequately address the technological advances and their place in Flowery Branch zoning laws.

Debate arose when council members considered whether to allow the electrical signs within the city. Some council members said they believed the constantly changing signs and their light intensity could be a distraction to drivers, particularly on Interstate 985.

"Because we’re growing, I anticipate I-985 will have a lot of construction in the near future, and eventually we’re going to have a lot of cones out there and flashing lights, and (signs) are just one more thing to distract drivers’ attention," said Councilman Craig Lutz.

Flowery Branch City Attorney Ron Bennett said the city likely does not have the financial means to prohibit the electric signs, and banning the signs completely could result in litigation against the city claiming freedom of speech violations.

"At the end of the day, there’s probably enough money in these signs that a company might push ... to have them," Bennett said.

Riker said he will continue to review the matter, and will present his findings to the City Council in early May to begin the drafting of a new sign ordinance.

Flowery Branch City Council also approved to send a letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declaring the city’s participation in the state-mandated watershed protection plan.

Andrew said the city must comply with the regulations of the watershed protection plan in order to maintain the city’s current sewage permit and to receive permission to expand Flowery Branch wastewater facilities in the future. He said it will cost the city about $30,000 to hire the biologists necessary to comply with the state mandate requiring cities to test water quality.



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