Proposals to redevelop the Kmart site on Hicks Drive and Mount Berry Mall with government assistance is sparking discussion of how Rome’s tax allocation district financing powers should be directed.
In a TAD, the increased property taxes from improvements are funneled back into the project for a set number of years to offset the cost.
The Riverwalk Plaza on Turner McCall Boulevard at Riverside Parkway was done with TAD financing. So were the RiverPoint Apartments next to State Mutual Stadium and the Courtyard by Marriott on West Third Street.
But Charles Love of the North Rome Community Action Committee spoke to the city and county commissions last month about targeting neighborhoods in need.
“The purpose is to lift up economically depressed areas,” Love noted. “The city waits for someone to show an interest in a property before doing a TAD, but I think it could be used the other way around — to generate interest in a property.”
The former recycling center property on Watters Street is one suggestion from Love, along with several vacant commercial sites on North Broad Street and Calhoun Avenue. He said new jobs and stores would help improve the rate of homeownership in the neighborhoods.
“Some of these sites have environmental concerns, but if you provide somebody a financial incentive and they’ll put money into it,” he said.
Floyd County Commission Chair Scotty Hancock said he’d also like to see TADs directed at blighted areas.
“People on my commission have differing thoughts but I think that, rather than waiting for someone to come with a plan, we should be laying out these districts,” he said.
Hancock pointed to the area around Floyd Medical Center and up Martha Berry Boulevard to John Davenport Drive. Many of the hotels draw frequent police responses for drugs, fights, thefts and other crimes.
“That’s an idea area to clean up,” Hancock said. “Some of these TADs are good because of what you get back in sales tax, but other (proposals) are in strong development areas. Why don’t we do these TADs in areas where they’re needed?”
Rome Mayor Bill Collins said the city is interested any time there’s an opportunity to revitalize an area and he’d like to see more investors coming to them with plans. He noted that TAD districts typically take in more than just a project footprint, to allow for additional developments.
For neighborhoods, however, he said a TAD isn’t always the best option.
“South Rome is a great example of how working together on affordable housing spurs other growth,” Collins said. “In some cases we need to go in and assess the potential, and then see what tools are best.”
He said smaller projects can take advantage of the city’s revolving loan fund administered by the Community Development Department.
“We have over $300,000 in our fund to help people get their businesses started,” Collins said. “A lot of people think it’s just for downtown, but it’s for everybody.”