Tumlin made that suggestion following a Wednesday night town hall meeting attended by a crowd of about 65 people, in which the overriding concern was a lack of parking in and around Marietta Square.
DMDA Chairman Tom Browning, who cohosted the meeting with Tumlin, said he’s been proposing a Mill Street parking deck for years because no one uses the county park decks on the east side of the Square.
Cindy Lu of House of Lu Restaurant underscored his point by saying her restaurant is across the street from the county parking deck and customers still don’t use it.
Browning proposes charging the people who use the courthouse complex in the mornings a fee to use the Mill Street deck.
“I’ve been proposing it for almost five years,” Browning said.
The hold-up has been the City Council, he said.
“I don’t think it’s got a lot of traction with the city,” Browning said. “The Council’s got to be the main player on that.”
Tumlin said he expects that resistance from the Council to continue.
“I’d like to throw it back at Tom,” Tumlin said. “Most DMDAs have more than a 2 mill (tax). I think the group that gets the benefit ought to tax themselves like a (community improvement district). Our DMDA is a CID (and) is not spending any money.”
Tumlin said that’s why he’s hearing DMDA members such as James Eubanks and Johnny Fulmer suggest that DMDA revenues should go to improve infrastructure projects rather than cultural groups.
The DMDA brings in about $160,000 a year with the tax rate set at two mills. A mill is 1/10 of 1 cent, or $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“If we went to five mills and brought in $400,000, we probably could do things,” Tumlin said.
“The DMDA was created to enhance the Square. This is a problem that has to be enhanced,” he said. “I think the DMDA ought to look at going from two to five mills and spend the money.”
Tumlin also said he believed the city should do its part to help with the deck financing.
“It’s still going to be shared, but I think they are a source of money,” Tumlin said.
Eubanks said he could see the DMDA raising its millage rate to help fund a parking deck.
“However, I have concerns that the DMDA, even if it raised its millage rate significantly, would still not be able to afford a full parking deck,” Eubanks said. “They’re very expensive. I would think there would need to be some alternative source of funding besides just the DMDA.”
The DMDA was created by constitutional amendment in 1970 and implemented by the General Assembly to help redevelop downtown Marietta. Its board is composed of two ex-officio members — the Marietta mayor and Cobb County chairman — along with three members elected by downtown property owners and three members elected by downtown business owners. The six members who are not on the board by virtue of their office serve three-year terms.
Councilman Philip Goldstein, who as one of the larger downtown property owners would be impacted by a millage increase, said it was something he “certainly” would consider, even though he wasn’t sure another deck was needed at this point.
“You’ve got two county decks that are in place and not fully used, and I do think ultimately a deck is needed on Mill Street, but I think we’re probably a few years off from having the need to build it,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said Lu made a good point about customers not parking in the county deck even though it was across the street.
“It’s not that the parking is not available currently,” Goldstein said. “It’s that folks either aren’t aware of it or don’t want to park in the deck, and I think a lot of it is not being aware of it.”
So the first step is better signs for the decks, he said.
“Because right now, the entrance to both decks are a block, two blocks off the Square and not fronting a main street … so your first step is sign them better, with the long-term goal of building a deck,” he said.
Fulmer asked the crowd how many would support parking meters on the Square. Only about six people in the room raised their hands.
The meeting was set up with Tumlin, Browning and Council members Anthony Coleman, Goldstein, Grif Chalfant and Johnny Sinclair sitting at a table at the front of the room facing the audience. Browning went down the sign-in sheet, calling out the names and asking if they wanted to speak.
Eubanks advocated railroad quiet zones for the downtown, just as he has at past meetings.
Joe Burgess with the Georgia Forestry Commission advocated the planting of more trees in the downtown to provide more shade.
Kee Carlisle, who serves on the board of the Marietta Museum of History, urged for city leaders to move quickly to form an umbrella organization to consolidate the various downtown cultural groups before they go out of business, an idea Tumlin proposed last year.
Dianne Butler of Atlanta Lyric Theatre said her organization was in the fourth year of a five-year lease with the Strand Theatre and would soon begin debating whether to renew. Butler said her theater was being courted by other communities.
“We need to hear that you want us here,” she said, noting it had paid the Strand more than $700,000 in four years.