By Joel Hall
With two of its five commissioners absent, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved the creation of two new tax allocation districts (TADS), one along the Tara Boulevard commercial corridor and the other in the northwest portion of the county.
Eldrin Bell, BOC chairman, said he hopes the new TADs will attract developers, as well as federal dollars, to the area.
A small group of people, mostly county officials, attended a public hearing on Tuesday prior to the adoption of the two projects. While some concerns were expressed about the matter possibly being rushed, Commissioner Virginia Gray, Commissioner Michael Edmondson, and Bell ultimately voted 3-0 in favor of the TADs.
Bell said having the TADs may convince the federal government the county is serious about redevelopment, and therefore, allow the county to share in the massive public works, economic stimulus package planned by President-elect Barack Obama's administration.
"Because we are in a queue ... in a line to receive [federal] funds, the more [development plans] we have in place, the better we will be," said Bell. "It could have some marketable advantages. It may put the county in a position to receive some much-needed funding for infrastructure.
"I'm hoping this will give us a leveraging tool," he said. Bell said he also hopes the TADs will provide "opportunities for our aerotropolis initiative," a mixed-use retail, office and hotel development, which uses proximity to the airport as a selling point.
David Price, a private developer who was instrumental in helping the county establish its first TAD project in Ellenwood, urged the county to acquire more properties in the proposed TAD boundaries before approving them.
"It took me three years to assemble 500 acres in Ellenwood," said Price. "We were able to get our land under contract at a reasonable price at the time we got our zoning.
"My recommendation is that you put the TAD off until next year and get a developer or someone to assemble the land," he continued. "If you don't, as soon as you pass the TAD, the landowners' expectations become unrealistic, and when a developer goes in and tries to buy the land, the price is going to be so high that you aren't going to be able to make it work."
Robin Roberts, director of Clayton County's Economic Development Department, believes approving the TAD projects now will spur new development, as the county will be able to use TAD revenues to issue bonds or reimburse developers on a dollar-for-dollar basis for county-approved redevelopment efforts.
"The interest is there, especially in Mountain View," said Roberts. "The delays have been in the land assemblage and road projects. If a TAD-funding mechanism is established, then you could see some of these projects happening in 2009. There is a list of potential developers who consider the county establishing a TAD as a demonstration that they are willing to move forward."