F’ville urges closer look by voters at referendum on a ‘tax’

Fayetteville will have a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot that involves a loaded word: “Tax.”

But city officials urge voters to pause before voting “NO.” It’s not a new tax, and it’s definitely not a tax increase for anybody, officials say.

In fact, it’s a temporary tax freeze for specific distressed properties intended to help spruce up commercial areas that have seen their better days and are sitting largely vacant.

Addressing the way to stimulate redevelopment of those areas through a Nov. 6 referendum is one of the topics to be discussed Oct. 4 at a town hall meeting in the council chambers at Fayetteville City Hall.

The town hall meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and will include a presentation on the Redevelopment Authority Powers referendum that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Director of Community Development Brian Wismer said the goal is to inform voters what the referendum means and how it could be used in the city to encourage redevelopment of older commercial centers.

If ultimately approved by voters, those redevelopment efforts will not create a new tax, will not increase property taxes to city residents and will not create new debt for the city, Wismer said.

Slated for potential redevelopment are older and significantly vacant commercial areas such as the 692 Shopping Center, the old Walmart and Banks Station shopping centers on Ga. Highway 85 and the undeveloped commercial property at The Villages on Ga. Highway 54 West.

Going under the name TAD (Tax Allocation District) when on the ballot in 2008, there was little surprise that the initiative failed since the word “tax” was included on the ballot. Wismer said the wording was misleading since it gave the impression that it would be a tax that applied across the city.

The reality, in the case of Fayetteville, is that it pertains only to specific parcels identified as benefitting from redevelopment, said Wismer.

Wismer said a TAD is a tool to create bond financing for infrastructure and other redevelopment costs related to the deteriorating commercial areas. It works by freezing property taxes on the targeted redevelopment site through the bond term that typically runs from 10-15 years.

The bonds are serviced from the increased property tax revenues that are generated by the completed redevelopment project in the TAD site. Once the bond is paid the higher property taxes generated will flow to the city, county and board of education.

By way of example, one of the parcels identified then and now is the 692 Shopping Center on North Glynn Street, former home of the Longbranch Restaurant and other businesses.

Situated on 3.9 acres with a building totaling 41,975 square feet, the parcel sold in 2001 for $1.8 million. In 2006 the fair market value had dropped to $1.747 million. In 2007 and continuing through 2011 the fair market value was $1.308 million. Now largely unoccupied, current fair market today has decreased to $1.166 million.

The Oct. 4 meeting will also feature a discussion of the Hood Avenue/Ga. Highway 92/North Jeff Davis Drive realignment project expected to begin in early 2013. The final portion of the meeting will be open for citizens to discuss issues of their choosing.

For more information on the town hall meeting contact City Hall or visit the Fayetteville website at www.fayetteville-ga.gov.