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Flowery Branch OKs TAD financing for development
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In other business Wednesday, the Flowery Branch City Council:

Renewed an agreement allowing Hall County to continue animal control services in the city.

Renewed an ethics ordinance, setting the number of ethics board members at five (from a pool of 12 residents) and adding the city manager as a member of the initial investigations panel, which also consists of three council members and the city attorney.

Contract with Hamilton Cabinet for the demolition of the interior of city-owned property at 5509 and 5511 Main St. The cost of the project is $5,762.

Went into a closed session to discuss land acquisition matters, then voted to approve a short-term loan of $405,000. The city’s 1 cent sales tax money, which can be used for capital projects in the city, is expected to repay the loan by the end of the year.

Flowery Branch City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to commit up to $135,000 in tax increments for demolition work already done in the Old Town Flowery Branch development led by Buford-based Hortman & Dobbs Developers.

It also endorsed future Old Town ventures eligible for TAD financing — construction of a new city street and public parking — with financial details to be worked out later.

Hortman & Dobbs has plans for a $15 million makeover of an area just off Main Street and bounded by Railroad Avenue, Church Street and Chestnut Street. The project will feature a mixture of boutiques, eateries and homes.

The firm will receive the $135,000 in December, after taxes have been collected.

Kellin Dobbs, a partner in the firm who has been the project’s leading spokesman, said the money will provide leverage for further bank financing as the company proceeds with the project, which has been in the works for more than two years.

"It will absolutely propel us into phase one," which could start in June 2010, said Dobbs, who said he was unable to attend the council meeting. "High fives are great, but money on banks’ tables are better."

The council’s vote was spurred by a recommendation from the city’s tax allocation district advisory committee, which held its first meeting in March and comprises three of the council’s five members, Mary Jones, Pat Zalewski and Allen Bryans Sr.

Those three voted for the development agreement. Councilmen Craig Lutz and Chris Fetterman voted against it.

"While we support the project, the actual agreement was too one-sided ... and I feel that it’s illegal to bind future city councils to that particular decision," Lutz said after the meeting.

Lutz and Fetterman sought to delay the measure until the next meeting, but that effort didn’t pass.

Also after Wednesday’s meeting, City Manager Bill Andrew said he believed that the vote "shows that we’re moving ahead and supporting the Old Town development with everything that we can."

Local governments can create TADs as a tool to lure developers to blighted areas, using property taxes from developments to pay for certain public-use projects within the district.

The hope is that sales tax revenue generated by commercial projects will far outweigh the governments’ investment in property taxes.

Flowery Branch has crafted a 567-acre district, with plans to enliven its downtown district and breathe life into vacant areas around Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Phil Niekro Boulevard.

Dobbs is a big supporter of the district.

"This is a plan the city has put into place to invite growth," he said. "... I would love for another developer to come in and build a project because it would make my project more valuable."