Marietta joins Cumberland, Town Center with new tax district
by Jon Gillooly
May 18, 2014 04:00 AM | 4862 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Economic Development Manager Beth Sessoms, along with strategist Joe Knight, with COMM360, look over the Franklin Road area where the City Council has approved a new tax district running along the corridor. COMM360 has been working with the city to set up the parameters for the new district.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Marietta Economic Development Manager Beth Sessoms, along with strategist Joe Knight, with COMM360, look over the Franklin Road area where the City Council has approved a new tax district running along the corridor. COMM360 has been working with the city to set up the parameters for the new district.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — Mayor Steve Tumlin says learning Cumberland’s self-taxing community improvement district was eyeing a northern expansion toward his city spurred him to create one for Marietta.

The MDJ reported on a meeting in 2012 in which Cumberland Community Improvement District Chairman Tad Leithead and Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott spoke of expanding that CID’s boundaries toward Marietta.

Community improvement districts, or CIDs, are formed by commercial property owners who agree to tax themselves at a higher rate, up to 5 additional mills, and using the extra revenues to obtain additional state and federal dollars to pay for infrastructure improvements.

“I first read in the paper they were looking north,” Tumlin said.

The news motivated the mayor to begin meeting with board members of the Cumberland CID and the CID to the north called the Town Center Area CID.

“We met because they would have taken some awful good properties that would have made it hard for the Marietta CID to get off the ground,” Tumlin said. “We met with the Cumberland and Town Center leadership and said, ‘If you all wait a little bit, is there any advantage to having a third one in the middle?’”

Marietta CID begins with 33 property owners

The Marietta City Council on Wednesday voted 7-0 in favor of a resolution to create the Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District, which includes 33 property owners in an area of 0.84 square miles along the Franklin Road corridor.

An advantage of having the CID in the city limits is its board will only have to work with one government — Marietta’s. Were the Cumberland CID to have expanded into the city, it would have had to answer to both the City Council and Cobb Board of Commissioners, Tumlin said.

If the Marietta CID’s board — yet to be formed — chooses to levy the full 5 mill tax, it would bring in an annual $214,831, said Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development director.

That sum is much less than the taxes collected by Cobb’s other two CIDs.

The 6.5-square-mile Cumberland CID, formed in 1988, collects about $5.5 million from its 175 commercial taxpayers annually, said its attorney, Lynn Rainey.

The 6.3-square-mile Town Center Area CID, created in 1997, collects about $3 million a year from its 256 commercial properties.

But Tumlin said the Marietta CID needs time to grow.

“Will it start out small? Can we increase the area? The answer is yes, but you know, we need to get the foothold, get it on the tax records,” Tumlin said.

Another important part of the initiative, Tumlin said, is uniting a group of like-minded property owners who can speak as one voice.

“It’s getting the ball rolling,” Tumlin said. “The CID is not an end all, but it is a strong basis for future growth. Even if it just starts out with 33 business owners, that’s going to give us input we’ve never had before and basically be a consolidated message.”

To form a CID, a majority of property owners representing 75 percent of the assessed value of the district must agree to the tax increase.

Of the 33 property owners in the Marietta CID, Sessoms said 17 agreed to be taxed, “which equals 52 percent, or a majority.”

Sessoms said the 17 property owners represent 85 percent of the total property value in the CID.

Tumlin said he was satisfied with not having 100 percent support from the property owners who will be taxed.

“The way Georgia law is set up, it doesn’t take 100 percent,” he said.

Mayor: Key support from Rainey, Garrett

The mayor cited two important players who have helped in launching the new CID: Lynn Rainey and Heath Garrett’s COMM360, a public relations and marketing firm.

Neither have been compensated for their efforts, Tumlin said.

Last year, Garrett, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s former chief of staff, co-founded Revitalize Marietta, a nonprofit that helped campaign to pass the $68 million Franklin Road redevelopment bond issue in November, Tumlin said.

“Heath Garrett’s group is doing it as a good citizen,” Tumlin said. “It just takes sweat equity for somebody to knock on doors to get people to join a CID. His group is doing it because he had such a passion to revitalize Marietta, especially the Franklin Road area.”

Tumlin said he and Garrett arrived at the decision for Garrett’s group to help with the CID formation over the course of several discussions.

“Because of my ongoing dialogue about this, it was just kind of understood that they would,” Tumlin said. “The city couldn’t pay them and there’s no CID to pay them. The Chamber of Commerce has got their own type people out, but yeah, they’re doing it just for the success of this. If those 33 people weren’t asked, they wouldn’t have joined.”

As for Rainey, Tumlin said he hasn’t been paid either, although it makes sense for the new CID board to hire him as its attorney.

“You would think logically with the contacts he’s made with this, with the effort he’s put into it, as they formulate and start getting money, that he would be a leading candidate to be their lawyer,” Tumlin said. “I mean, there’s nobody to hire him right now. He’s forming it. They could choose whatever lawyer they want, but he would be a logical one because he knows so much about it and he’s an expert.”

New board to be formed June 30

The Cumberland CID board pays the Cobb Chamber of Commerce to provide its staffing and office needs, but the Town Center CID hires its own staff. Tumlin said it will fall to the Marietta CID board to decide what kind of staff it wants, although the City Council gets to appoint one board member.

“As it becomes finalized — I think we have to by next month — we would listen to Heath’s group, we’d listen to Beth, we’d listen to Lynn Rainey as to who they think the city ought to appoint.”

The first board meeting of Marietta’s CID is scheduled for June 30, at which point an election will be held among the property owners to determine who the other board members will be.

One of the largest property owners in the new CID is the state of Alaska, through Atlanta Parkway Investment Group, which owns Parkway Center, the only Class A office building in Marietta, said Joe Knight, an associate with COMM360.

A second is High Street Equity Advisors out of Boston, which owns most of the Franklin Forest office park.

And a third is Clarion Partners, which owns Franklin Oaks and Kingston Business Park, Knight said.

Tumlin believes having a third CID formed between Town Center and Cumberland will be to everyone’s advantage.

“They’re all intertwined,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are on both boards.”

For example, Mason Zimmerman, a vice president with Pope & Land, chairs the Town Center CID board, but also sits on Cumberland’s.

“And this third one, the big boys are going to be on all three, and they saw the advantage of having a series of CIDs, with each one focusing on their particular area, but for the common good of the 41/75 corridor,” Tumlin said.

Dovetailing with $68 million redevelopment

The future looks bright, Tumlin said, for the Franklin Road corridor with the new CID coming online combined with the work the City Council is doing with the proceeds of the $68 million bond issue.

“I can see a great boom in the commercial, especially the high-end commercial,” Tumlin said.

The city has already purchased two aging Franklin Road apartment complexes for a price of $20 million. They are the 386-unit, 25.2-acre Woodlands Park complex and the 348-unit, 24.3-acre Flagstone Village Apartments.

Shave off $4 million earmarked in the bond issue for Whitlock Avenue improvements and another $10 million for new roadwork in the Franklin Road area, Tumlin said, and that leaves the city with about $30 million left to spend on land purchases.

The city hired Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle as its real estate consultant for the project.

“They’re kicking tires, looking, recommending to us what properties would be a good buy, and there’s so many combinations; they’re still working through it,” Tumlin said. “One of them is a willingness to sell at a reasonable price.”

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