First public hearing set for Six Flags tax district
by Sarah Westwood
July 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 2080 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Commercial property owners in the south Cobb region around Six Flags Drive will have their first opportunity this morning to speak about a proposed tax district that would fund $10 million in area improvements.

The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. in the commission room.

The Six Flags Special Services District would stretch across the southern tip of the county, bordered by the Fulton and Douglas county lines and reaching just above Interstate 20.

Dana Johnson, the county’s deputy director of community development, said the district would impose property tax fees on property owners in order to pay off a $10 million bond, to be issued by the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority.

“The bond would be used for the purchase of challenged properties, the removal of structures on said properties and beautification at the I-20 interchanges,” said Johnson.

The district would attach an ad valorem tax “initially” set at 3.5 mils to owners’ property bills in order to collect extra funds to back the bond, according to Rob Hosack, the county’s community development director

Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents the area in which the special services district would fall, said a single apartment property ranks among the district’s highest priorities.

“There’s one particular apartment complex that has had a disproportionate amount of police calls,” she said.

The tax district could raise enough funds to allow the county to acquire the property, Cupid added.

Ed Richardson, chairman of the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority, said acquiring and demolishing such “priority redevelopment sites” is a top short-term goal of the effort.

His authority hopes to then market the remediated sites to potential investors, he said.

Richardson said he hopes the district will generate the funds to reduce the number of apartment units on Six Flags Drive, as well as lower crime rates.

Along interchanges on I-20, Richardson said the program would aim to “improve aesthetics to support tourism and attract new business investment.”

Derrick Barker, a general partner at a real estate acquisition and development company called Civitas Partners, said he purchased three apartment complexes along Six Flags Drive last year.

“We thought that it was a good value for an area that was right off of I-20, and was 20 minutes or 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta,” Barker said. “It’s just got a lot of opportunity.”

He said the about 500 units making up his trio of properties are “pretty well occupied,” with occupancy rates above 90 percent.

Built in the 1980s, Barker said the three properties under his company’s ownership — Parkview, Kingsley Village and Hunter’s Grove complexes — are showing signs of aging despite being “well-maintained,” as is the rest of the community.

“We’d like to see some of the blighted properties cleaned up,” he said of the area around his apartment communities.

“Anything that helps the area is going to be helpful to our properties.”

He said he hoped the district would spur investors to redevelop the corridor’s blighted sites.

“I think that all the property owners have a common interest, and our interest is in having this area be a more vibrant place for people to live,” Barker said. “Anything we can do to help would be a positive, and I think it would be welcomed by everybody.”

Gene Petriello, a spokesman for Six Flags Atlanta properties, said the amusement park is “supportive of making a difference in south Cobb.”

“Six Flags has just made its largest 2014 capital investment with the all-new Hurricane Harbor water park, and we are committed to making Cobb County a great place to live, work and play,” Petriello said.

“Creating a special district is a fiscally responsible approach, since revenue is only collected from property owners within the district and not the entire county,” Richardson said. “The parties who stand to benefit the most from these improvements are the ones paying for the improvements. However, the entire community will enjoy the benefits of new investments and reduced crime in this community.”

This morning’s board meeting marks the first of two public hearings on the district’s creation. If commissioners then vote to approve the special services district, Richardson said commissioners and the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority will need to hammer out an “intergovernmental agreement” specifying which entity will fill what roles.

He said an oversight committee comprised of business and property owners in the district would be created to help guide officials toward making investments in “appropriate projects.”

Richardson said tax collections to pay for the bond would start in 2015 if commissioners approve the special services district.

“It’s a lot of conversations about different options,” Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director, said of where progress on making the special services district a reality sits today.

Chairman Tim Lee said last month he’d like to have the new district in place by September.

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