At a Monday meeting, county officials offered suggestions including studying tax allocation districts for south Cobb, using funds for a “branding” strategy for the area and hiring a part-time administrative employee.
The money is from an allocation made in 2000 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes, a Mableton native. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs grant was for studies in south Cobb. It is unclear exactly how much money is available.
Dana Johnson, Cobb Planning Division manager and county contact for the seven-member board, suggested conducting a $30,000 data study on having a TAD around Six Flags Drive. If money is available, a second study could be conducted in Mableton, also for an estimated $30,000.
TADs are used by governments to provide public financing for infrastructure and other redevelopment costs for blighted, undesirable or underutilized areas. They allow increased property tax revenues that result from new development to be used to finance redevelopment costs, including debt service on revenue bonds.
In order for the redevelopment authority to set up a TAD, it would need consent from the Cobb Board of Commissioners and Cobb Board of Education. Those entities would have to give up tax increments from the area included in the TAD, with the idea that they would receive more money from property tax revenue once the bonds are paid off.
Redevelopment board members said they wanted to wait until a planned July 24 joint meeting with the Board of Commissioners and school board members to see if everyone would be receptive to the idea of creating a TAD before they put money aside to study them.
Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson, who attended the Monday morning meeting at the South Cobb Government Center, said he felt his fellow commissioners would be willing to consider using TADs to spur redevelopment in south Cobb.
“The other members of the board have been very receptive to some of the new things we are coming up with in the Mableton and Six Flags area,” he said. “I think it will be even stronger after our joint meeting … I think if there was ever an area that would be eligible for tax allocation district, it would be Six Flags, followed by Mableton.”
The Six Flags and Mableton TADs are among the items in a 2012-16 work program between the county and the redevelopment authority. Both the Board of Commissioners and the redevelopment board have approved the program.
The recommendations from county staff also included using between $30,000 and $40,000 for a branding campaign, which would include developing marketing, media, website and logo strategies to improve the image of south Cobb, which the redevelopment authority considers to be bordered by Smyrna to the east, the county line to the south, Austell Road to the west and the East-West Connector to the north.
Johnson said he spoke to people at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, which recently underwent a rebranding, said they paid between $30,000 and $40,000 for their campaign.
But some board members were concerned that the amount of money might not be enough to cover the kind of marketing that south Cobb needs.
Board member Darhyl Watkins, a consultant with Deloitte, said the board should determine how large of a scope it wants the branding strategy to have before it determines whether it needs to seek additional money.
“The area is known as Six Flags. It doesn’t really have an identity, so it’s very transient,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to make it more community-oriented and more stable.”
Among the plans for the redevelopment authority, listed in the work program, are acquiring three apartment complexes with low vacancy rates on Six Flags Drive and demolishing them to be sold for redevelopment.
The idea for a part-time administrative staff member, which would be an employee of the redevelopment authority instead of the county, received a cool reception from board members — particularly the $60,000 salary budgeted for the employee by the county.
“That’s way high,” said board member Melinda Ashcraft, Six Flags over Georgia’s general manager. “There’s a lot of issues related to it. You can’t just have somebody who’s ‘floating’ out there.”
Johnson said the remaining $50,000 from the grant could be used as a “contingency” fund.”
The redevelopment authority board was formed last year, with four members appointed by the Board of Commissioners and the remainder by the Cobb Legislative Delegation.