Morrow may annex into county for redevelopment

By Justin Boron

Morrow, centered around the cash cows of its massive retail market, isn't too keen on the vacant warehouse space just outside the city limits. So it's pulling the property into its Mt. Zion commercial redevelopment plans, says City Manager John Lampl.

Meanwhile, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners doesn't want to give up the 4.2 acres on which it collected $21,800 in property taxes last year.

"It costs the county taxpayers money," said Commissioner Charley Griswell, whose county commission district contains the property.

The property at 1115 Mt. Zion Road, which is home to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Tuesday Morning, was valued at $1.7 million this year. Its annexation would only be the initial step in a broad redevelopment project intended to bolster the retail market surrounding Southlake Mall, Lampl said.

Tourism analysts, along with several elected officials, have said they are concerned with the direction the mall has taken.

Grant Wainscott, Morrow's director of economic development, has said he thinks the city's commercial centerpiece will be fine.

But like the mall's tenants, the retail area surrounding the mall appears to be on the decline.

Hi-Fi Buys has advertised that it is closing its doors, and County Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer said at a recent meeting that other stores could follow soon.

Also across from Mt. Zion Road, a large, seemingly inactive warehouse sits on Kelly Avenue.

Lampl said the vacancy and neglect have left the area looking forlorn but is optimistic about what Morrow can do.

"No one seems to care," he said. "It just needs a good plan, and we've got one."

City officials have yet to give details on their Mt. Zion redevelopment plans. But Wainscott has said officials are close to unveiling them.

The county commission took a vote of opposition to the annexation at its most recent commission meeting.

Griswell complained about how Morrow has annexed property in the past only after the county builds the infrastructure.

He said each incorporation makes the residents in the unincorporated part of the county take up the slack in taxes and cost of services.

"Somebody has to pick it up," Griswell said.

Despite the opposition vote, Lampl said the city has 100 percent participation from the property owners, leaving little that the county can do to block the annexation.

Both sides left open the possibility of pursuing the redevelopment plans together.

"We always try to work with the cities on redevelopment," Griswell said. "Regardless of who has the property, both are going to gain."

The county commission is discussing some plans of its own for the area, Griswell said. He added he thought the entire area from Mt. Zion Road to Mountain View should be considered for a special tax incentive district.