City council votes to approve tax allocation district, set millage rate

Jacoby says work on massive Emerson development may begin before 2020

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Monday evening’s Emerson City Council meeting drew one of Atlanta’s most powerful and renowned developers to Bartow County, as Jim Jacoby — head of Jacoby Development, Inc. — made an appearance to advocate for a resolution officially approving the Etowah-Allatoona Economic Corridor tax allocation district. 

In early 2018, Jacoby announced plans for a massive mixed-use project in Emerson — complete with 2,000 residential units and more than one million square feet of retail and commercial developments.

At Monday's public meeting, Jacoby said that project has a new namesake — the Etowah Highlands.           

“It was originally the Villages at Red Top, but we wanted to pay homage to the Etowah and the Native Americans,” he added.

Bartow County voters approved a ballot item last year allowing the County to authorize the creation of tax allocation districts, or TADs. In late November, Bartow County publicly revealed plans for the Etowah-Allatoona Economic Corridor, which includes a 1,000 acre-plus mixed-use site near the old Paga Mine property.

Abutting Etowah River to the north and Red Top Mountain Road to the south, the proposed development calls for 900 single family units, 300 townhomes and more than 2,000 active adult facility units. At full buildout, an analysis from Bleakly Advisory Group anticipates the project entailing about 3,700 residential units and more than 550,000 square feet of residential, hotel, medical office and “community" retail developments.

And Jacoby said there’s a possibility the development can begin to take shape before 2020 arrives.

“We want to come out of the ground this year,” he said. “The sites out there are fairly topographically challenged, so it’s probably a 12-month site work project.”

While Jacoby, who also oversaw the development of Atlantic Station and the Porsche at Aerotropolis project, did not give any updates on how much money is being invested in the proposed Emerson project — which, according to the Bleakly analysis, could easily surpass $1 billion — he did say that potential business partners are already lining up. 

“We have a lot of commitments for the residential component of what we’re doing with the town center, and trying to bring Nashville to Emerson,” he said, “so there’s a lot of interest from entertainers to be a part of the project.”

A major component of the project, as indicated by concept documents from Jacoby, is a commercial district which would be modeled on famous downtown areas from throughout the United States, including New Orleans’ Bourbon Street and Memphis’ Beale Street.

“There’s timeframes from the time that we get everything, all our documentation done, so we can go ahead and move towards the closing,” Jacoby said. “There’s a lot of steps that need to take place and we’re moving forward in that direction, but everything’s very positive right now.”

The project, he continued, would also include a roughly two-mile river walk amenity, with “significant setbacks” from the Etowah.

At the moment, Emerson City Manager Kevin McBurnett said that not all of the proposed project will fall under the purview of the municipality. However, following the de-annexation of more than 250 acres from the City of Cartersville back to Bartow County earlier this year, McBurnett said it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Bartow officials will eventually transfer those acres to Emerson to ensure the proposed Jacoby development falls under the jurisdiction of one local government entity.

The Bleakly report identifies 29 parcels within the Etowah Highlands area. Along with three additional parcels near the Allatoona Landing marina and segments along U.S. 41 and Eighth Street in Emerson, the total fair market value of the redevelopment area was assessed at $25.6 million.

"Future development would increase the current $10.2 million taxable digest value of the TAD by an additional $523 million," the analysis, commissioned  for the Bartow County government, reads. "This would result in approximately $16.7 million in new real estate and personal property receipts when Etowah Highlands and Allatoona Landing are fully built-out."

In TAD-designated redevelopment areas, any additional revenue above the property tax digest base value is placed in a special fund, with the extra income set aside for environmental remediation, utilities installation and other infrastructure building projects. 

“The value was frozen as of Jan. 1, so they’ll pay their taxes and all of that will get distributed as it normally does,” Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson told The Daily Tribune News last month. “Next year, if there’s any increase, then that would go into the TAD fund … if some agreement has been reached by then and there’s something to spend it on, that money would go into improving the infrastructure, improving Paga Mine Road or putting in water and sewer or remediating the tailings.”

Olson said any TAD bonds Jacoby may receive will likely be issued upfront to get all of the horizontal development on the project underway. 

Per the Bleakly report, anticipated developments within the TAD are expected to bring 1,894 new jobs to Bartow County, with an estimated payroll eclipsing $68 million.

The council — with Councilman Ed Brush recusing himself — unanimously approved the resolution approving the TAD.

The public hearing was closed out by members of the council likewise unanimously approving an item establishing the City’s 2019 millage rate. 

“Currently, we’re at 1.872 mills, the rollback rate would be 1.832 mills,” McBurnett said. “After running the numbers, we tentatively set the millage rate at 1.832 … there will be no tax increase this year.”