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November 08, 2012JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council ordered a rush job two weeks ago to get a plan to redevelop a 500-acre tract in the heart of the city ready to submit for the Atlanta Regional Commission, but after reflection, put on the brakes.
The ARC offers its Livable Centers Initiative grants, which channel federal planning dollars to cities accepted into the program. Those federal dollars were attractive, but the council had second thoughts when they began to look at the performance strings attached.
At the Nov. 5 meeting, the council members unanimously decided to forgo the LCI grant application but continue with the redevelopment plan.
"It was also a matter of timing," said City Manager John Kachmar. "We were rushed meeting the LCI deadline, and the council still had questions about LCI procedures. We decided it would be prudent to take a slower approach."
But the council is going ahead with the original plan; it is just not committing itself to a schedule of benchmarks with federal guidelines and commitments.
The research area is bounded by McGinnis Ferry Road on the north and runs south bisected by Medlock Bridge Road short of Abbotts Bridge Road.
"The idea is to look at the opportunities for redevelopment in and around Technology Park to improve the tax digest that is heavily weighted toward residential," said Kachmar.
The city's tax base is about 85 percent residential.
The council decided it also needed more time to develop contacts with the businesses and the property owners who would have to be in support anyway.
Council did go ahead with the plan to use $100,000 out of its contingency fund to explore the redevelopment idea with property owners through the city's consultants, The Sizemore Group.
The city will also work with the newly formed Johns Creek Economic Development Corp., of which the city is a member, to gauge the interest of the local businesses.
To find a source of funding, the city wants to explore the interest of the business community in forming self-taxing entities that would then direct those extra tax dollars to infrastructure projects within the area taxed.
Examples of these are Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) and Tax Anticipation Districts (TADs). In both cases, the member property owners agree to pay an incremental larger property tax.
In the case of a CID, that increment is then tallied with the other members' tax to create a fund. The CID would have a board of its members then decide how the CID dollars would be spent. The extra tax is incurred for as long as the CID exists.
In the case of a TAD, an area scheduled for development will have infrastructure and improvements paid for through bonds. The bonds are then repaid through the rise in value of the taxes on the improved land. The taxing authorities agree to take only the portion of property tax before the improvements are made. That is the baseline. That tax over the baseline is used to repay the bonds.
Once the TAD bonds are satisfied, the taxing authorities – in this case the city and the Board of Education – would reap the windfall brought on by the property's redevelopment.
The J.C. Economic Development Corp. would also have the ability to offer low-interest development bonds as an incentive.
The city is limited in that there are not many large undeveloped tracts suitable for redevelopment. The plan would look at creating economic incentives for redevelopment as well as new zoning classifications that could help spur new development.
The council is not ruling out applying for an LCI grant. It simply wants to lay more groundwork before committing itself, Kachmar said.