Tax allocation district in south Bartow becomes official Dec. 31

County approves creation of Etowah-Allatoona Economic Corridor

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Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor approved an agenda item creating a roughly 1,500-acre economic corridor spanning from Paga Mine Road to Allatoona Landing at a public meeting Wednesday morning.

Taylor's approval designates 32 parcels of land included in a redevelopment plan designed by Atlanta firm Bleakly Advisory Group that outlines a possible tax allocation district (TAD) in southern Bartow. 

"All that was approved today was the district map, basically," Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson said. "So now that district becomes the first TAD district, and were a project to come along and be agreed to in that district, then potentially, the increment — the improved sales tax from future development — could be used as part of the redevelopment of those parcels."

According to the Bleakly document's projections, the Etowah-Allatoona Economic Corridor could result in $1.42 billion in new retail, commercial and residential developments and increase the area's taxable digest value from $10.2 million to $523 million.

Atlanta developer Jim Jacoby has expressed an interest in bringing two massive mixed-use projects to the county. Jacoby Development Inc.'s proposed Etowah Highlands redevelopment project would create a 1,000-acre-plus hybrid commercial and residential complex on the site of the old Paga Mine property — with an estimated 3,700 single-family, multifamily, hotel and senior living units and 565,000 square feet of retail and residential properties — while the proposed Allatoona Landing expansion would bring a 100-key hotel, an 8,000-square-foot amphitheater and 500 marina slips to the lakeside property.

To finance the infrastructure necessary to get those developments off the ground, Jacoby asked Bartow County officials to consider appointing themselves "redevelopment powers" in order to create TADs throughout the county. 

By a 4,601 to 3,231 margin, Bartow County residents approved the measure last May. At a public hearing last week, Sharon Gay — managing partner of the Atlanta office for global law firm Dentons — described the intent and implementation of tax allocation districts.

"The way a TAD works is what we call the base value, the value of the property tax digest that exists today within that redevelopment area, is certified by the state revenue commissioner as the base value," she said. "So the county will continue to receive revenue on that base value for the life of the TAD, and if the board of education chooses to consent, they can consent to include their share of the new increment in the TAD, and they'll continue to receive the property taxes on the base value, so nobody gives up a dime that they're getting today."

Essentially, she said the TAD funding would pay off the upfront redevelopment costs — i.e., infrastructure and environmental remediation — to allow new economic investments to develop within the corridor.

"The idea of the increment is that once this tool is unleashed, the new development, the new value that's created as a result of redevelopment within the designated area, would generate new property tax revenue," she said. "The money will flow into a separate fund — literally the tax commissioner will separate it all and send the county two checks, one for the general fund and one for the special fund."

In the Bleakly document, it is estimated that as much as $171 million in bond debt could be issued "over a likely series of financings," with developers having access to total potential proceeds tabbed at about $129 million at build-out.

Olson, however, said the county has not made any financial agreements concerning the TAD, nor does the approval of the redevelopment plan commit them to any expenditures.

Taylor's approval, however, does mean the TAD becomes effective Dec. 31.

"Any future growth will now start going into a TAD pot, but there's not going to be much growth there unless a developer comes and starts investing," Olson said. "We don't know exactly what Jacoby's timetable is — we expect he'll be talking to us over the course of the next year."

Regarding the redevelopment plan, Olson said the county still has quite a bit of leeway to alter the corridor boundaries. He also said there's a possibility the county could make adjustments to some of the financial details included in the proposal, such as the tax increment itself.

"There's potentially other parcels that could be added to it," he said. "There's a lot of development interest in the area, so some of those folks when they've heard about this are potentially interested in seeing whether it could be expanded to include their properties. But we're just taking it one step at a time."

Ultimately, Olson said whether or not development begins in the corridor hinges on several factors. 

"I'm sure a lot depends on [Jacoby's] success attracting development partners," he said. "You look at the national economy, the stock market, the trade wars — I'm sure that all affects people's willingness to invest millions of dollars, so we'll just have to see if something comes to fruition." 

All those variables taken into consideration, Olson said the county is certainly open to inking an agreement with Jacoby in 2019. 

"Any development, kind of for the next year, is going to have to consider the broad economy and everything I'm following in the macro economy suggest next year might start to see some trouble — we hope not, but different headwinds are afoot in the world economy that might slow development, so we'll have to see," he said. "But if Jacoby wants to show up and start talking about the details, we're ready to negotiate."