MARIETTA — The Franklin Road area could become the county’s third self-taxing community improvement district, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said in his annual state of the city address last month.
Tumlin said the Franklin Road area could follow in the footsteps of the Cumberland and Town Center community districts.
Marietta voters approved a $68 million bond referendum in November giving the city permission to raise property taxes by up to 2 mills so the city could fund the revitalization of the Franklin Road corridor. The city plans to purchase aging apartment complexes, raze them and sell the cleared land to developers.
Two Franklin Road apartment complexes totaling $20 million have already been acquired by the city, including the 386-unit, 25.2-acre Woodlands Park complex and the 348-unit, 24.3-acre Flagstone Village Apartments.
Tumlin said the area of the corridor targeted by the city is ideally situated.
“Marietta has the next five exits north of the Atlanta Braves stadium, which will bring some great economic advantages,” Tumlin said.
It also rests just north of the Cumberland area and south of the busy Town Center at Cobb shopping mall. Business owners in both of those areas have opted to form community improvement districts so they can tax themselves at a higher rate and pour the revenue into projects such as roads and sidewalks.
“They can charge 5 mills and don’t have to do fire or police,” Tumlin said. “They can put it into infrastructure.”
Marietta is “probably” going to start a CID, Tumlin said. The creation of a new self-taxing district would have to be approved by the General Assembly. Only businesses are taxed by CIDs, not residents, and the district then uses that local tax revenue to leverage more tax dollars in the form of state and federal grants.
“We have an opportunity to mirror what happens at the Galleria, to mirror what happens in Town Center,” Tumlin said.
Business owners around Franklin Road planned to meet in March to gauge interest in forming a self-taxing district, said Councilman Philip Goldstein.
“It’s a very positive thing,” Goldstein said.
Councilman Johnny Walker, who also attended Tumlin’s speech, also said the idea could come to fruition.
“I think it’s possible that it could happen,” Walker said.
‘Dependent’ on SPLOST
Tumlin pointed to recent streetscaping and sidewalk projects undertaken by the city, such as the one on Roswell Street, and said more improvements could be on the way if another round of the special purpose local option sales tax is approved by voters this year.
The city has a list of projects under consideration for a potential SPLOST totaling less than $300 million. Not all of those projects will make it on a referendum, as Marietta is projecting to get just $56.2 million, or $11.2 million annually, from the tax if it continues over five years and is approved by voters.
City Council members planned to narrow down the list of potential projects this month to hand over to the Cobb Board of Commissioners, which is taking the lead on the SPLOST vote.
“You’re going to see wider sidewalks and more trees,” Tumlin said.
Of the $300 million in potential projects, $17 million comes from the Marietta Fire Department. Seven fire vehicles, totaling $4.25 million, and 15 advanced life support heart monitors, totaling $450,000, are among the items Chief Jackie Gibbs said in January his department needs.
“We have fire trucks that were there when (Gen. William) Sherman came through Atlanta,” Tumlin said with a laugh.
A SPLOST is being collected now in Cobb and is set to expire at the end of 2015. Marietta is projected to get about $44.8 million from that SPLOST, which was approved by voters in 2011.
Marietta has now had a SPLOST for about 12 years in a row, Tumlin said.
“The answer is yes. We have gotten dependent on SPLOST,” Tumlin said, adding the city is reliant on the tax because it funds projects like sidewalks and road improvements.
Keeping Dobbins in Marietta
The impact on Marietta would be terrible, Tumlin said, if Dobbins Air Reserve Base were to become the victim of base realignment and closure hearings, commonly known as BRAC.
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem were closed in 2005 during the last round of BRAC hearings, leaving Dobbins as the last remaining base in north Georgia.
There has been no indication a new BRAC will happen anytime soon, and Sen. Johnny Isakson previously told the MDJ it would be at least 2017 before the hearings reconvene.
Still, Tumlin said Marietta wouldn’t be the city it has become without the base.
“They can’t have Dobbins,” Tumlin said.
Marietta saw tremendous growth when Bell Aircraft Corp. opened a plant in the city during World War II. The site eventually became Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and attracted Dobbins. Dobbins is responsible for about 2,500 jobs and $182 million in annual economic impact.