The Marietta City Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to place a $35 million bond package largely intended to help redevelop Franklin Road on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the time has come to let voters decide what to do.
Tumlin said debates during council meetings raised issues that allowed the proposal to change and improve.
“This has been citizen driven, not developer driven,” Tumlin said.
The mayor said the proposal began with council members divided on whether it was right or wrong to even consider, but it eventually morphed into what road development is needed and where is best to spend the money.
“It shows me the issue has matured,” Tumlin said.
Now that the bond has been drafted and approved by council members, the City Council and staff can only educate the public on the redevelopment project, not advocate for or against it, Tumlin said.
Nine residents spoke in opposition to the bond at Wednesday’s meeting.
Robin Montgomery, 54, who lives on Franklin Road, said the redevelopment project “is an effort to disassemble a community that is redefining itself and improving in great measures.”
Councilman Philip Goldstein came down from his seat to address his fellow council members from the public podium.
Goldstein said the families that live on Franklin Road have children who attend the Marietta School System and a massive loss of residents would result in the closing of a school and teacher layoffs.
Goldstein predicted current Franklin Road residents will consolidate in complexes that are in good shape and will not be purchased or torn down by the city.
He said his goal for supporting the bond is to improve businesses in the area and provide more jobs, as well as build a park on land previously purchased by the city.
“There are an overwhelming amount of good people on Franklin Road. … They are welcome to stay a part of the community,” Goldstein said.
On Nov. 5, Marietta voters will decide whether to approve $4 million for Whitlock Avenue streetscape improvements and $31 million for Franklin Road property acquisition, demolition of blighted businesses and apartments, and the construction of roadways.
After years of talking about the problems on Franklin Road, “action is long overdue,” said Tumlin, who added he is proud the City Council is leading the way. “We are willing to tax ourselves to have a better community,” the mayor said.
People who spoke in opposition at public hearings on the bond, Tumlin went on to say, thought the project was outside the government’s responsibility and did not justify using taxpayer money.
Tumlin said he understands that concern, but “government can’t turn its back on a real need.”
Tumlin said the city will contract with the Marietta Housing Authority to help residents move out of the blighted apartments on Franklin Road that the bond money purchases.
He said the Housing Authority has the expertise and contacts to find better housing for those residents.
The council also approved the fiscal 2013 city budget, which has no service cuts or tax increases, but may include a pay raise for city employees starting Jan. 1.
The general fund budget is $48.8 million, which is a 1.4 percent increase over last year, or $690,443 over the existing 2013 budget.
As part of this vote, the City Council also approved the budget for the city-owned utility governed by the Marietta Board of Lights and Water. The BLW budget for 2014 is $170 million, an increase of $2.1 million, or 1.3 percent, over 2012.
Bob Lewis, general manager of the Marietta Board of Lights and Water, said all three utility services are expected to see a rate increase because of the rising wholesale cost for electricity, water and sewer treatment.
That rate increase would be presented to the council in November for approval.
The council also appointed Councilman Johnny Sinclair as delegate for the 2013 Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia Power annual meeting held in Amelia Island in July.
Tumlin said Marietta has an excess of power with a lack of options regarding how to sell that excess, which could result in raising the base fees for electricity services for the first time in 25 years.
Rezoning for alcohol
The council took the first step to allow breweries, distilleries and wineries to open in Marietta’s downtown business district and other commercial areas.
These types of businesses were classified as food manufactures, which limited their locations to industrial zones.
The city will advertise the change to the zoning ordinance as the initial required step that the council hopes will end the trend of new businesses passing over Marietta to locate in other cities.
Another alcohol zoning issue was waived by the council Wednesday that will allow for the sale and consumption of beer and wine in Glover Park and the adjacent streets for the annual Art in the Park event over Labor Day weekend.
School bus cameras
Beginning August 1, cameras will be mounted to the outside of Marietta City School buses to capture drivers who illegally pass the buses, ignoring stop arms and flashing lights.
The council approved an agreement between the school system and the city, which will use an automated system and software provided by American Traffic Solution Inc.
Pam Allen, court administrator for the city, said the program will start on school buses with the highest safety concerns.
She said the fine amounts are set by state law, and the first infraction will result in a $300 fine, with $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third.