Floyd County commissioners spent some more than half an hour during their caucus this week discussing Berry College’s request for $1.72 million in Tax Allocation District financial assistance to bring a Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott hotel to property adjacent to the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. No action was taken, but the discussion was lively.
Commissioner Larry Maxey and County Manager Jamie McCord hold seats on the Rome Redevelopment Agency that considers TAD requests. They voted against the request then, saying they had just been forced by the economic climate into a property tax increase this fall and couldn’t justify forgoing any potential new tax revenue.
It probably didn’t help that the proposal was associated with the tennis center, which is still — and probably forever will be — a lightning road for folks who opposed the project approved in the 2013 SPLOST.
Let’s try to make sure that everyone knows exactly what a TAD is.
Company XYZ comes to the city and indicates it needs some financial assistance to make a development work. The company is willing to make a significant investment to develop a piece of property on what typically has been an under-developed site, or a site with unusual infrastructure needs.
XYZ Inc. would like to recoup some of their considerable expenses over a specific period of time. Those funds do not come out of general tax coffers. Rather, they are what amounts to a rebate on their taxes that have increased by virtue of the new valuation of the property they are developing.
Berry College counsel Danny Price said the county has been receiving approximately $80 a year in property taxes for the 3-acre parcel the hotel would be developed on.
The college is basing its request for $1.72 million in TAD assistance over 10 years on the projected increase in value of the property. If the value is underestimated, whatever amount of money comes in above the amortization schedule would be earmarked for Floyd County.
City Manager Sammy Rich said he is also considering ways for the county to be able to receive some net new property taxes to get them on board with the project.
Aside from property taxes, the county would receive thousands of dollars in revenue from the sale of water to the hotel, along with sales taxes generated by the property.
The first TAD in Rome was used for Ledbetter Properties’ RiverWalk shopping center at Riverside Parkway and Turner McCall Boulevard. Since then, it’s been used at the Courtyard Rome Riverwalk and the RiverPoint Apartments, both of which are in the sprawling tax district that includes Charles Hight Square. The most recent TAD was designated for the East Bend shopping center.
A TAD district was also created in the area around Mount Berry Mall, however, no projects have been formally submitted for financing. The Berry hotel would be in that district.
One of Commissioner Maxey’s objections during the Redevelopment Agency meeting was that it seems that TADs are being used for valuable pieces of property that ought to be generating tax revenue for the community.
In a sense he’s right. But let’s take a deeper look.
The RiverWalk property is at a prime location nowadays, but not when it was first developed. What was there was a long abandoned car lot and the old WESA building. You had to have lived in Rome 25 years ago to know what a dump that was.
Nothing was happening there; it wasn’t generating any tax revenue. Now there’s a successful shopping center generating both property and sales taxes.
The Courtyard Rome RiverWalk was also vacant property. City leaders had been desirous of bringing a hotel to that site for a decade, but nothing had happened until Duke Hospitality finally stepped forward.
Charlie Williams asked for TAD assistance for the high-end, energy efficient RiverPoint Apartments next to the stadium — property that had been vacant for years.
Maxey, like many in the community, probably thought the area around State Mutual Stadium would take off after the stadium was built, but for whatever reasons, it did not.
Eddie Hasko gambled on the new location for his Bella Roma Grill. Years passed and nothing else happened until Line-X and Lumina Coffee opened. Williams was ready to spend a lot of his money to build nice, really nice, new apartments, the likes of which had not been constructed in Rome in at least two decades.
We might add that both the Courtyard and RiverPoint are generating lots of water and sewer money.
The Ledbetters are busy at East Bend. Yes, it’s a prime piece of land at a busy intersection — maybe one of the most valuable in the city. But how long were local leaders willing to let a ghostly Kmart welcome visitors to the community?
I’m glad Commissioner Maxey and others may believe the proposed Berry hotel site is prime property, but that prime property where the college wants to invest north of $12 million for a new 92-room hotel has been vacant FOREVER.
If a hotel happens, the county will make much more than its $80 a year on the sale of water alone.