City Council will vote at its next meeting on a resolution asking the Marietta Redevelopment Corp., formed by the city to be its redevelopment arm, to amend its charter to remove most city oversight, including council’s appointment of board members.
The City Council is scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. today at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St.
If the meeting is postponed due to inclement weather, council will meet at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the same location, weather permitting.
In December, the council approved, in a contentious split vote, backing $221,000 in interest payments on an MRC redevelopment project that has seen little success. Council members Anthony Coleman, Annette Lewis and Philip Goldstein were against it.
There was another split vote in November, with Mayor Steve Tumlin casting a rare tie-breaker that sent the city to the negotiating table with Bank of North Georgia.
The bank holds the $4.2 million loan made to the MRC to purchase about 8 acres of vacant lots and properties off Powder Springs Street across from the Hilton Marietta Conference Center.
Bank of North Georgia asked Marietta to guarantee $225,000, which equals 18 months of interest payments on the loan.
After months of talk, the bank agreed to spread out the payments over 36 months. The MRC will pay the first 19 months with the city paying the remainder, which is now $221,000.
If the MRC agrees to amend its charter and become more independent, the city would still honor its loan, said Tumlin.
City looks to cut the cord
Before the council agreed to underwrite the MRC’s interest payments, there was debate among council members about the city’s legal obligations to the group.
Some, including Tumlin and Councilman Grif Chalfant, argued that while the city may not be legally obligated to back the MRC’s projects, it had a moral obligation to do so because of its involvement in the MRC.
In 2006, the city gave $2.1 million to the nonprofit to secure a bank loan.
Others, including Councilman Philip Goldstein, countered that the MRC is a separate entity and the city has no obligation.
Goldstein said he is “absolutely for” making the MRC independent.
“If the MRC is going to survive it needs to do so independent of the city,” Goldstein said. “It needs to be able to do redevelopment on its own.”
Tumlin maintains if the MRC had been made fully sovereign years ago, the 4-3 votes that approved backing its loan could have shifted in the other direction.
“If we’d done that two years ago that might’ve been different,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin said the council “couldn’t tell where they stopped and we started.”
Chalfant, who was the city’s representative on the MRC board last year, said separating the city from the MRC will help alleviate the controversy over whether or not the city is responsible for the redevelopment group’s actions.
“We were in a position where we were being in charge of the MRC but we weren’t legally responsible for anything so we all thought it would be better, it wasn’t just me, to make the MRC be independent and totally independent from the city,” Chalfant said.
If the MRC agrees to amend its charter, the city’s financial ties wouldn’t immediately be cut and the city would honor its loan approved in December. The city contributes about $150,000 annually to the MRC through staff support and office space.
The city paid the salary of a full-time director for the agency until he took a position as the city manager of East Point in November 2012. That position wasn’t filled, but the work of the MRC has largely been put on Beth Sessoms, city development manager, and another full-time employee who is dedicated mostly to the corporation.
Still, Tumlin said the city will consider lessening its contribution when it starts preparing for its next fiscal budget.
MRC Chairman Ron Francis said he was unaware of the city’s intention to severe ties but said he isn’t surprised.
“It’s fine for the city to desire to make us more independent,” Francis said. “I think we’ve become more independent anyway because even though they appoint the people to the MRC, (Beth Sessoms, city development manager) and myself interview anybody who applies and we make recommendations.”