Study: Mableton needs own identity
by Geoff Folsom
August 21, 2012 12:28 AM | 4055 views | 9 9 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MABLETON — A study funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission said the Mableton community needs a “champion,” and becoming Cobb’s third community improvement district might be the route to victory.

The study, presented Monday to the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority board by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute, said Mableton suffers from a perception problem. Janet Bozeman, an attorney with Hyatt & Stubblefield, said much of the problem is a result of issues in other parts of south Cobb, particularly the Six Flags area, which has a large transient population and high crime rate.

“Mableton suffers from a poor reputation, and the reputation really ought to be associated with the other guys next door,” said Bozeman, a member of the Urban Land Institute Atlanta District’s Technical Assistance Program committee. “I hate to say it, but in a lot of ways, for Mableton to move forward, Mableton needs to disassociate itself from the surrounding area.”

Redevelopment authority Chairman Ford Thigpen, president of Westside Bank, said there are different views of negative impacts on the community.

“That’s in the eye of the beholder as to what potentially could harm Mableton,” he said. “There are definitely some perceptions of Mableton that people have that are not true. It’s going to be up to our body or another champion to combat those perceptions or overcome them.”

Bozeman said bodies like the Cobb Board of Commissioners, and even the redevelopment authority, can have conflicting goals, so a government focusing on Mableton is needed.

While the possibility of incorporating as a city or a township (which isn’t currently allowed under Georgia law) was raised, discussion focused more on Mableton becoming a CID, like the Cumberland and Town Center. The study, paid for using $7,500 in grant money awarded to the ARC, recommended that another study, this one focusing on the feasibility of a Mableton CID, be conducted within 1 to 3 years.

“CIDs actually have more advantages compared to a city,” said Bill de St. Aubin, who served as moderator of a panel that interviewed Mableton stakeholders to put together the report. “The CIDs can move a little quicker, operate a little more independently than a city.”

Other panelists who worked on the report for the Urban Land Institute included Stephen Arms of Marthasville Development; Brendan Barr, NorSouth Constructs; Sharon Gay, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP; Michael McLaughlin, the city of Morrow’s economic development director; Ellen Mendelsohn, Reznick Group PC and Betsy Sheppard with Gilbert & Sheppard Group.

Among the stakeholders the panel interviewed in April were former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Mableton native and large property owner in the unincorporated community; Commissioner Woody Thompson; State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), developers Denis Blackburne, David Knight and Beth Hawks; Jerry Thompson, owner of Martin’s Restaurants; as well as representatives from the Cobb County parks and library systems, the Mableton Improvement Coalition and the South Cobb Arts Alliance.

Redevelopment authority board member Darhyl Watkins, a consultant with Deloitte, said he would have liked to have seen a broader group of residents interviewed.

“They were very strong people, but with the role you see a lot of churches in the community play, I would like to have seen someone involved from one of those,” he said.

In order to create a CID, someone must first create boundaries for the proposed district, said Marietta attorney Lynn Rainey, who represents 14 CIDs in the Atlanta area. They would then need written consent of at least 50 percent of the commercial property owners and people who own 75 percent of the commercial property in the district. In CIDs, commercial property owners taxed themselves to fund transportation, parks and infrastructure improvements. Some businesses are not counted toward the total needed to sign off on becoming a CID, such as businesses that also have a residential component, and agriculture. Residents in the district’s geographical area do not pay the extra tax.

The Board of Commissioners would then have to pass a resolution creating the CID, Rainey said. They would then be responsible for appointing a board member and calling for an election of the other CID board members by business owners within the district.

While he didn’t know whether or not Mableton would support a CID, Rainey said not every location is appropriate for one.

“You have to consider whether or not the assessed value of the property is sufficient enough to raise enough revenue for a CID to be viable,” he said. “That’s a fundamental.”

Still, Rainey said that CIDs do not necessarily need to be as large as the Cumberland or Perimeter CIDs, which have regional shopping malls and corporate headquarters. In addition, direct interstate access isn’t necessary. He said the Lilburn and Evermore CIDs, both in Gwinnett County, are not located on major freeways.

“They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes,” Rainey said.

Bozeman said Mableton also needs to work on its branding, including having a website more like a city would produce, as well as signs letting people know they have entered the community.

“On my trip today, I saw ‘Welcome to Cobb County,’ but I didn’t really see ‘Welcome to Mableton,’ ” Bozeman said.

She said Mableton has assets to promote, like the Silver Comet Trail and access to Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, as well as Interstates 20 and 285, but people don’t know about them. In addition, it needs to overcome perceived challenges. Along with what’s seen as a lack of a leadership structure and identity, she said Mableton’s challenges include its schools and a dearth of community activities.

Watkins said the panel was “right on” with it recommendations.

“We’ve got to create a champion (for the community). I think we’re going to have to get the branding right,” he said. “Those are the places where we’re going to have to focus on. And we’re going to have to find the money. All the stuff they focused on was spot on.”

Other board members attending the meeting included Six Flags over Georgia general manager Melinda Ashcraft, and Ed Richardson, owner of Richardson Management Group LLC. Robin Meyer of the Mableton Improvement Coalition, ClesiaVentures owner Damon Duncan and ICG Real Estate Advisors LLC Chief Operating Officer Adrienne Lance Lucas didn’t attend the meeting.
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January 14, 2013
I just moved here 6 months ago from Clayton county and I live in the six flags dr area. Let me tell you the comparison. Clayton county was cleaner, but Cobb county has bus service. Clayton county was low crime, but cobb county has many many job opportunities. I believe this can turn around if the police were strict on littering. The six flags dr area needs to be cleaned up especially in the little wholes along the side walks it is a trash disposal. I am from clayco as they call it and you would not even think about throwing trash on the ground I believe up here the police is to nice.
August 21, 2012
Ask the police who patrol the area if there is a perception problem. I would not live in Mableton - period. I value my safety and my property. Do some research - see where the crime is.
August 21, 2012
I have lived in the Mableton ZIP code 30126 very close to the Smyrna line off Oakdale that runs from the Office Park down to Veterans Memorial for 25 years now.

I have seen both Smyrna Grow as well as Mableton grow. It was a wilderness almost when I moved there. None of the business's you see at 285 and S.Cobb Drive were there... Only the Racetrack that has just a booth in the parking lot for taking gas money. My oh my how it has changed for the better !

I do business in both Areas, as I am right on the line with Smyrna.

When you turn off Oakdale Road onto Veterans Memorial there is a nice living/Shopping combo on the corner. There is a lot of Nice subdivions built now as well. Most Gated. The only problem I see in that part of Mableton is that some of the older buildings that have business's in them need to do some cosmetic work to their Buildings,and LANDSCAPE. This would be a Huge inprovement all the way up to Floyd Road.

Other problems I see as reguards to all that is a part of what is MARKED up as Mableton is the area around 6 flags that I hear about all the time.

I do not go to that area but if it is a part of the MABLETON zips then that is what people hear about.

Something needs to be done to clean up the safety in that area are take it out of the MABLETON area ! Give to Austell where they can do something about it, since Mableton DOES NOT HAVE A Mayor Like Austell does.

Where I live is the most Convienant area I have even lived in and I have lived in Atlanta Area all my life.

Thats all I have to say. Just wanted to add to the Discussion. NO NEW TAXES !! :)
August 21, 2012
No matter how much you may want to you can't create a market where one does not exist in the first place.

If there was some semblance of a viable commercial market in the area then it might be a worthwhile effort.

Absent that it is no more than an unrealistic pipe dream.

Mableton is Mableton.

August 21, 2012
They had to do a study, spend a few thousand dollars and hold special meetings to conclude Mableton has a "perception" problem?
August 21, 2012
TIC and NtheNo: You're displaying the mentality that isn't going to get us anywhere. If you don't approve of the study or think it's a wasted effort, please elaborate on what you think would be a more useful or effective approach. Contribute rather than sit and complain. Partake in the meetings.

I am personally glad they are 'officially' concluding that Mableton has a 'perception' problem. I see it as the only way to start doing something about it.
August 21, 2012
@ Mableton Resident

I wasn't complaining, just offering a realistic opinion based on experience.

In the end it is going to be up to the commercial property owners in the area as to whether a CID is created or not.

Lofty aspirations and well meaning intentions are simply not enough in most situations.

Mableton is one of those unfortunate situations.

Here is my two cents worth: Be all you can be, but don't try to be something you can't be.

August 21, 2012
TIC: Thank you for following up.

Wouldn't you say that some of the Gwinnett/Norcross areas have been successfully turned around in the past few years? Even Smyrna... my understanding is that after Marietta flourished several years ago, Smyrna was next. Why can't Mableton follow? After all, like the article mentioned, it has some solid aspects, such as the Silver Comet Trail, EW Connector and Interstate proximity.

I think right now people are associating Mableton with Veteran Memorial Highway and Austell Road. Those are just two tragic looking roads that happen to enclose Mableton on two sides... but once the Floyd Road improvement project completes and if something interesting is done with the large unused lot right on Floyd and Silver Comet (read: protected park or garden), I see it easily turning around. There are very well maintained, beautiful neighborhoods East of Floyd and North of Veteran, as well as Brookwood Drive. Heck... some parts of Brookwood Drive (very small sections, admittedly) look almost Buckhead-like. What could be done so that people associate Mableton with the aforementioned things, as opposed to Austell Road/Veteran Memorial?

I am honestly trying to understand the dynamics, since I have only been in the area a few years, so I may not know the big picture.
August 21, 2012
The dynamics are this:

First of all

Is the commercial property value in the Mableton area being contemplated as the CID special taxing district, have enough property value to generate the revenues needed to support a meaningful effort?

I figure about $200 Million in Fair Market Value of commercial property owners would be the minimum.

Did the study that was done make these basic calculations?

If so, what were the potential revenues?

Secondly are the majority of the commercial property owners in the area willing to VOLUNTARILY pay up to an additional 5 mils in tax over and above their current Cobb County tax bill?

It's a little more complicated than that, but I won't bore you with the details.

If the potential revenues flowing the the CID are less than $500,000 per year then it is going to be pretty difficult to do anything substantial or meaningful.

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