During its Thursday board meeting, the CID also agreed to hire controversial consultant Chris Leinberger of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.
County Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, raised the subject of expanding when he suggested the CID look at the section north of Windy Hill Road, east of I-75 and south of Delk and Powers Ferry roads.
“If you look at the streetscapes and just the overall appeal from (the CID boundary line at) Wildwood South, which are some of the main things that the CID works on, it looks tremendous,” Ott said. “They’ve done an outstanding job of really creating a community, and by expanding up to Delk Road, those property owners may voluntarily decide to become part of the CID that will allow the CID to continue that whole streetscape and sense of community all the way up to Delk Road.”
CID Chairman Tad Leithead, who favors the idea, estimated the expansion would increase the district’s size by 5 percent. Leithead also pointed out that if the CID’s boundaries extended into the city of Marietta, it would change the board’s makeup.
“Right now we operate entirely in unincorporated Cobb County,” Leithead said. “If we go into the city to work with that city, then we would have to have a relationship there. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just a consideration.”
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who was not at the meeting, said he is open to the idea of allowing the CID to expand into Marietta.
“The potential there in the Powers Ferry area, right there in Delk Road and Highway 41 could just be so enhanced with some self-governing improvement funds,” Tumlin said.
The two CIDs in Cobb tax themselves five mills above the regular tax rate on commercial properties in their districts and use those funds for such things as streetscape improvements or paying for television advertisements about the TSPLOST referendum.
Expanding north, Leithead said, “gives us more revenue that we then have the opportunity to invest in continuing improvements on Powers Ferry to enhance the affected properties. … If we expand the boundary of the district, and they come into the district, then we can take their funds and use those funds to pay for extending those improvements all the way up to Delk Road, which is good for the community, good for those projects. We’ll have to explain to them that if they voluntarily raise their taxes, this is what they’re likely to get in return. Nobody just raises their taxes for fun.”
Ott said he preferred that the CID stop at the Delk Road boundary rather than the city.
In response, Leithead directed the CID staff to begin the process of researching who owns properties in the area so that they may be contacted about their interest in joining the CID.
In other business, the CID board unanimously voted to hire Chris Leinberger of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution to conduct a study about communities that emphasize walking over driving. Leinberger recently angered some when, in a recent speech to the CID, he chided suburban residents for “racializing” MARTA.
“It’s not the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit,” Leinberger said at the time. “It is ‘Moving African Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta.’ You’ve racialized it. The white suburban neighborhoods and places have completely ignored the economic development potential that MARTA could have been and will be in the future.”
CID executive director Malaika Rivers did not mention Leinberger’s name when asking for the board to approve a $25,000 expense related to a $190,000 study Leinberger is going to do for the CID.
“This is an activity to engage George Washington University, a very highly respected university in the northern Virginia area, to do a regional study to look at submarkets around Atlanta and model an effort after one that they’ve done in the Washington, D.C., area to look at these markets and rank them on their walkability, and the premise being future trends and development patterns show that places that are more walkable and therefore provide more transportation choices to the user, that being the tenants or the residents or whoever is in the market, if they have transportation choices including walkable choices and other choices, then those submarkets are heading in the right direction,” she said.
Rivers went on to claim — inaccurately — that the Perimeter and Gwinnett CIDs had already approved funding for the study.
CID attorney Lynn Rainey corrected her.
“Buckhead is the only one that’s voted so far,” Rainey said.
The CID board approved the $25,000 expense with the caveat that the rest would be paid for by other CIDs in the metro area.
Leithead admitted after the meeting that the study was being overseen by Leinberger.
“He’s coordinating the project with Georgia Washington University,” Leithead said.
Leithead was asked what he hoped the outcome of the study would be.
“If we knew what we wanted out of the study we wouldn’t have to do the study,” he said.
Leithead was also asked if he agreed with Leinberger’s racial accusations about MARTA and the suburbs.
“I don’t have any comment,” he said.
When voters resoundingly rejected the $8.5 billion TSPLOST tax on July 31, Atlanta columnist Maria Saporta quoted Leinberger as saying the region was going backwards.
“By rejecting this, the Atlanta region has shown that it is firmly committed to the 1980s economy. Atlanta has soundly voted for driving 30-40 miles a day and to living in large, single-family lots. It’s the same-old, same-old.”
In Saporta’s column, Leinberger suggested that the City of Atlanta, and Fulton and DeKalb counties come up with a plan to build their own “walkable infrastructure.”
“If the fringe is wedded to a vision of the future that is wedded in the past, they are just going to have to be cut loose,” he told her.
Also Thursday, board member Peter Kasian with Tishman Speyer announced his resignation on account of a job change.