An ‘Atlantic Station’ in South Fulton? Who Cares?

Staff Editorial

There’s a soundbite that you’ll hear often during public comment in city of South Fulton meetings: “We want white-tablecloth restaurants in our community.”

This feedback was echoed often after the city was first created when city council candidates would ask residents what their vision was for their community. And it’s a request that continues to be made as residential growth explodes, but commercial development fails to keep pace.

Currently on the ballot, residents have a chance to vote to create a tax allocation district (TAD) to spur economic development in the area. The TAD is a redevelopment and financial tool that gives governments the power to provide financial assistance to eligible public and private projects within an official designated area. The tool is used throughout the state, including in the neighboring cities of Atlanta, Hapeville and College Park.

One of the most popular examples of a TAD in the metro Atlanta area is Atlantic Station. It was established in 1999 to redevelop a 138-acre brownfield site which had been contaminated due to heavy industrial use. The mixed-use development features nearly 20 restaurants with shopping, a movie theater, hotel, a seasonal ice skating rink and more. It will soon be home to Bowlero, a 36,000-square-foot state-of-the-art bowling alley. It’s also attracted new residents and created new jobs.

Granted, not everyone in South Fulton wants an Atlantic Station in their community. That was another soundbite from the campaign trail in 2017. But as of this week, few residents have turned out to give their opinion on the matter one way or the other.

While there are 10 early voting sites throughout Fulton County that South Fulton voters can choose from, the latest numbers available show that just 478 people have voted at Wolf Creek Library and only 642 have voted at the South Fulton Service Center.

Curiously, a new homestead exemption is also on the ballot. For some residents, tax bills have increased dramatically following reassessments by Fulton County appraisers to more accurately reflect post-recession property values. Impacted residents were outraged, and rightly so.

The new exemption would prevent drastic increases in property tax values, providing a cap to help lessen the financial burden on homeowners as fair market values increase.

But that still hasn’t been motivation enough to get people out to the polls.

Today is the last day of early voting. Polls are open until 6:00 p.m. Voters will have one more chance to express their opinion on these two issues on the ballot on Election Day on Tuesday, November 5. Voters will also decide if Councilmembers Catherine Foster Rowell, Helen Willis, Rosie Jackson and Mark Baker get to keep their seats for another four years.

It’s too early to tell if South Fulton will vote to approve the TAD or the new homestead exemption – chatter about the ballot questions online and offline is at a minimum. But either way, major decisions impacting the fifth largest unconsolidated city in the state will be made on November 5. And only a remarkably small percent of the population will be having their say.

At Councilwoman Carmalitha Gumbs’ recent townhall meeting, Economic Development Administrator Christopher Pike answers common questions about tax allocation districts.
(View the entire video at Facebook.com/COSFObserver.)

Rendering: Atlantic Station/HGOR

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