Was tax abatement an incentive or reward?
by Pete Borden
December 09, 2013 08:06 PM | 1669 views | 1 1 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The tax abatement granted the Riverwalk Development has more twists and turns than a barrel of snakes.

The developer of record is Greenstone Properties, but it is backed by a John Williams company, Preferred Apartment Communities. Ironically, none of these people are mentioned in the first pages of the application for tax abatement. Another person, Tad Leithead, who just happens to be chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District and the Atlanta Regional Commission, is the name that appears there.

Thanks to the MDJ, all the foregoing is now common knowledge and is giving rise to a growing number of questions, one of which concerns the entity granting the tax abatement. The Development Authority of Cobb County, aka DACC, was created by the state of Georgia, with its aim to promote the economic development of Cobb County.

Its seven members are appointed by members of the Board of Commissioners. In other words, they are unelected members of an authority that has, legally or not, the power to give away tax funds rightfully belonging to Cobb County. Maybe the DACC was created to allow the commission to deputize others to do their “questionable” work.

Certainly, the need for the granting of this tax abatement, which was granted, ostensibly, to make the development more attractive, is questionable.

In the process of denying that the development is tied to the pending move of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County, the developer insists that this project has been planned for a long time. In such case, it is fairly obvious that it would have happened without the tax abatement.

The cost to the county in lost revenue will add a burden to the taxpayers at some point. This development will require infrastructure, involving streets, fire and police protection, water and sewer, etc. The taxes the developer is sidestepping would go a long way toward mitigating that burden.

The amount of revenue denied Cobb schools would certainly help fund the added cost of educating the children of the people who will eventually occupy the 236 condos and the 14 townhouses.

Does anyone think the schools in the area can absorb those children without creating an undue burden? Of course, if we are guaranteed that all these children are currently in the Cobb County School District, somewhere, that changes the problem. However, if that were the case, it would mean that the new development is not attracting any new people to Cobb County, rather creating vacancies in other areas of the County.

What about the state-of-the-art office tower? Is it really going to create jobs, or just move them from one location to another? Will it attract new businesses to Cobb, or will it just be Cobb businesses abandoning their current quarters for new ones?

The result of this abatement is that the developer is in the enviable position of being able to best his competition due to the reduced cost of doing business. Is this really what the DACC should be in the business of doing?

A question, of major concern, is “Will this open the door to every developer who wants to build high-density housing or a new office complex? How do we deny them, after the precedent is set?”

Cobb will receive no property taxes from the new Braves Stadium. That is why the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, not the Braves, will be the owner of record.

Fast forward to the much-ballyhooed Braves entertainment development, with restaurants, theaters and other “feel good stuff” that makes folks giddy thinking about it. There is no binding obligation to proceed with it, but, if they do, is there anyone who thinks the Braves will not come to the county demanding a tax abatement?

In short, this deal, like the Braves deal, reeks of “good ole boy” politics, both sprung on the taxpayers, after they were “done deals,” so to speak. Both may turn out to be beneficial, but, for now, they are highly suspect.

Look for more, not less, of this kind of questionable dealing to emerge in the coming weeks and months.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor.

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Ironic prophecy
December 12, 2013
I find it ironic that Borden's last sentence in this column "Look for more, not less, of this kind of questionable dealing to emerge in the coming weeks and months." is a prophecy quickly fulfilled.

On the front page of the same edition is the breaking story of the Weather Channel's grab at taxpayer funds.

Looks like the retired masonry contractor has this one pegged.

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