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Flowery Branch City Council approves redevelopment plan
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Flowery Branch City Council members approved the appointment of City Planner John McHenry to the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Board of Directors and its executive board.

McHenry will represent the city’s interests, replacing City Manager Bill Andrew.

LLCVB is the official destination marketing organization for Hall County, encompassing the lake’s eastern shore line.

Flowery Branch collects a 5 percent hotel/motel tax, of which 3 percent goes into the city’s general fund and the remaining 2 percent to the LLCVB for the development and promotion of tourism in Hall County.

This year, Flowery Branch has budgeted $34,000 for the LLCVB, according to Andrew, making the city the largest contributor of the tax due to its greater number of eligible rooms and higher revenue in the LLCVB area. The city is not obligated to pay the entire budgeted amount, only 60 percent of what it collects.

Andrew said he believes the city’s participation is worthwhile because of the LLCVB’s increased productivity and visibility in the Flowery Branch area.

Flowery Branch City Council approved a resolution Thursday to adopt an urban redevelopment plan.

The city will support its application by declaring 67 land parcels part of an opportunity zone.

Local governments that undertake redevelopment efforts in certain older commercial and industrial areas can qualify those areas for a state tax credit of up to $3,500 per job. The incentive is available for new or existing businesses that create two or more jobs.

Oakwood has also applied for the designation, which gives broad powers to cities to redevelop blighted areas.

“This is a valuable (recruiting) tool that is considered de facto these days,” said Bleakly Advisory Group’s Jonathon Gelber, which is consulting with both Oakwood and Flowery Branch on the process.

Gainesville also has a designated opportunity zone.

“Essentially, it lasts for 10 years,” said Gelber, of which five years can be capitalized upon by a business.

The city’s redevelopment plan has identified for revitalization 103 parcels that meet a benchmark for “negative conditions,” as determined by council. Parcels in the opportunity zone must meet a stricter determination of “blight” that includes pockets of poverty, high vacancy rates and increased crime. Remediation of the May flood will also be taken into consideration.

“Eighty percent of the acreage is considered dilapidated or obsolete,” Gelber said of the parcels within the zone. “In addition, the northern portion of the historic Old Town has 18 percent poverty and elevated crime statistics.”

Gelber said he believes Flowery Branch’s application for the designation is “pretty clear cut.”

In order to be considered for zone approval at the state level, Flowery Branch must submit its application by Sept. 30. The review process then takes approximately 90 days.

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