In a work session Monday, the council agreed to inch toward the eventual November ballot measure with baby steps rather than take giant leaps all at one time.
The hearing starts at 7 p.m. The council will not vote Wednesday on the resolution calling for a November election. Instead it will listen and then wait for at least three more weeks before voting, most likely at a special meeting to be called by Mayor Steve Tumlin.
If the ballot proposal were approved by voters, they would essentially be agreeing to be taxed in return for the city redeveloping the Franklin Road corridor along with some smaller upgrades to other areas, such as Whitlock Avenue.
Councilman Philip Goldstein said he likes the go-slow approach. “We’re still getting input from the public, and the council will take some time to ask questions,” he said.
The project includes $25 million for the acquisition and demolition of several aging apartment complexes along a mile-and-a-half stretch of Franklin Road. Another $10 million would be spent on projects in other parts of the city, including sidewalks along Whitlock, connector roads between Franklin Road and the city’s two universities and a possible redevelopment of the Fort Hill and former Lemon Street school areas. The Fort Hill and Lemon Street areas traditionally have served the city’s African-American community. Exactly what projects will be done is still up in the air. The Fort Hill and Lemon Street projects in particular still have a lot of unanswered questions, because one is owned by the Housing Authority and the other is owned by the city school system.
“We’re going to spend $1.2 million on the Lemon Street School and we don’t own it?” asked Councilman Griffin Chalfant Jr., who questioned whether it was feasible. Tumlin said it could be done as part of an intergovernmental agreement.
Beth Sessoms, the city’s director of economic development, said that $1.2 million was basically a “placeholder” until the city can consult with various stakeholders to find out what type of project they would like to see on Lemon Street.
“Right now we haven’t vetted it out yet,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and August.” August is the latest the council can decide on whether to place the $35 million bond referendum on the November ballot.
But Tumlin said the priority must be Franklin Road, a corridor that a majority of the council believes is a drain on city schools and police resources because of its “transient” population.
“The real reason we’re doing this is Franklin Road,” Tumlin said. “The others are fringe projects. I don’t want to offend anyone out there, but maybe $25 (million) and $10 (million) is not a good breakdown and maybe 27 and 8 is better.”
City officials are hoping that a redevelopment of the Franklin Road strip would lead to more business investment and a more stable residential community with an increase in home ownership as opposed to renters. Residents uprooted from the apartments would have to be relocated with the help of the Marietta Housing Authority.
The city would only use its powers of eminent domain to acquire rights of way for road extensions associated with the project, according to city staff that briefed the council.
After hearing public comments on the proposal Wednesday, the city staff will prepare a final project list for the council to vote on, along with the exact wording that voters will see on the ballot in November.