Mayor Steve Tumlin is giving residents a chance to do something about that in a Thursday proposal to the City Council.
Tumlin will propose asking city voters to approve a $35 million “quality of life” general obligation bond — as early as this November — that would allow the city to buy and raze a handful of apartment complexes, readying the property for sale for commercial and light industrial development.
He also is suggesting building a road connecting Franklin Road with Barclay Circle, the entrance to Life University, which is adjacent to Southern Polytechnic State University.
Tumlin also would use $1 million to $1.5 million on improving Whitlock Avenue.
“Not four or five lanes, but a boulevard look with wide sidewalks and lamps,” he said. “We get a lot of complaints that we haven’t spent any money on Whitlock compared to three or four of the other main roads.”
He would like to do something with the now-closed school on Lemon Street that was the only option for black Marietta residents to attend before desegregation.
“We’re talking about making a memorial at Lemon Street High School, working with the Board of Education to put in maybe an African-American museum,” he said.
There are also some aging strip malls in the city that could be purchased and razed, he said.
“We must aggressively fight against urban blight for the sake of our schools, residents, businesses and public safety,” Tumlin said. “Take blight off and replace it with either quality of life producing or economic development producing.”
Effects on taxpayers
Tumlin is suggesting a 10-year general obligation bond that would raise the millage rate by 2 mills. Had voters not just approved the education special purpose local option sales tax that pays off the debt of Marietta City Schools, he would not be making the proposal, he said.
“It was hinging on the Board of Education’s SPLOST passing. Because they’re going to pay off their indebtedness, there’s 1.87 mills on there now. This would be 2 mills,” he said.
To give an idea of what this would cost homeowners, Marietta Economic Development Director Beth Sessoms said 2 mills equals $160 on a home that is assessed at $200,000.
If the house stayed at the same value, that would be an additional $160 a year for 10 years.
Targeting Franklin Road
Sessoms said there is a mile and half stretch of Franklin Road between Delk Road and the South Loop that has about 3,000 aging apartment units that date to the 1970s and ’80s.
There are 11 apartment complexes and two aging townhome developments that rent out a number of their units on that stretch as well.
Many of the complexes are in and out of foreclosure, she said.
Tumlin said they also offer deals such as the first three months of rent for free.
But the transient nature of the population means when it comes to the fourth month, the family has moved out.
That puts a strain on Marietta City Schools.
Marietta Board of Education Chairman Randy Weiner greeted word of Tumlin’s proposal with applause.
“This is, in my opinion, one of the most important bonds the city has ever brought to the voters,” Weiner said.
“It has the potential to not only transform the city, but transform the school system. A lot of our highest needs and transient students come from the Franklin Road area, and it will greatly stabilize our student population.”
In 2010, the city spent $2.7 million to buy the 13-acre Preston Chase apartments on Franklin Road from Regions Bank, and spent another $410,643 with Environmental Holdings Group of Buford to demolish the complex, turning the area into parkland.
“More times than not, there are two or three good buys on Franklin Road that we do not have the money to take advantage of,” Tumlin said. “And usually if they’re foreclosed on, it means the people living there are in horrible conditions. If we could put 13 to 15 acres together and attract our first green tech business there on Franklin Road, then when we sold it, we could start over and do it again, buy another three.”
Tumlin said the city would use the same method it did when it razed Preston Chase, bringing in the Marietta Housing Authority to help relocate the occupants. Eminent domain would not be used.
A domino effect
Tumlin said he has already received favorable comments about his proposal.
“People ask me all the time, ‘When are we going to do it?’” he said. “Now, those that think the government ought to just do police and fire, they won’t like it. But it would probably pay off overnight from the school system to the parks system to the police system, lowering crime rates. If you replace some rundown places that have outlived their useful life and put in something that generates jobs, generates new taxes, I would say the domino effect is good.”
The council’s economic development committee, composed of council members Grif Chalfant, Johnny Sinclair and Anthony Coleman, will take up the proposal Thursday.
Tumlin said he looks forward to hearing other ideas from council members and the public on the best way to shape the proposal.
“Marietta citizens can exercise their right to put Marietta on the right track with the many opportunities and low interest rates available,” he said. “Crime, blight, poor housing conditions, extraordinary job-producing economic development opportunities are a choice, and we can be innovative and proactive to make Marietta an even better place to live with our citizens having the opportunity to express their desire.”