When developers first proposed plans to designate 300 acres in north Columbus as a Tax Allocation District, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson expressed concern that the city would be subsidizing private development.
She said a TAD referendum failed in 2007 because voters feared the funds would benefit private developers instead of distressed communities.
Despite those concerns, councilors voted 9 to 1 Tuesday to move forward with the plans. Councilor Glenn Davis was the only one to vote no, saying he believed it would negatively impact city revenue.
“I mean, we are already being presented with options about how the next budget is going to look, challenges that the city is confronting,” he said. “And any time you’re dealing with the revenue of the city, which is what I would call general operating funds or general fund money, that is the money that runs this government. But if you’re taking it, and you’re expending it, then certainly there’s got to be balanced.
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“I think the city really has to understand how we’re doing these TADs because, ultimately, I don’t see any other way of generating new revenue than raising the millage or expanding Urban Service Districts,” he said. “And I hope that’s not what we’re going to get to if we keep taking operating funds and putting them away somewhere else instead of using them for the operation for the government.”
Once a TAD is approved, the city can issue revenue bonds to remedy infrastructure and environmental problems, as well as other issues that might hinder development. The extra tax revenue created by the project is then used to repay the revenue bonds over the life of the TAD, usually 20-30 years.
Councilor Gary Allen made the motion to move forward with the plans, which was seconded by Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes.
The designation was requested by Flournoy & Calhoun Realty to redevelop the old Swift Denim Plant at J.R. Allen Parkway and Manchester Expressway into Midland Commons, which would consist of 533.000 square-feet of retail space and 250 senior housing units.
The project also would include improvements to Flat Rock Park as well as traffic flow.
The property, which consists of 289 acres, has five parcels that include the former Swift Denim Mill.
In previous meetings, developers said numerous proposals to acquire and redevelop the site gained no traction over the years because of the costs to clear the site and bring in infrastructure. If the project is approved, the taxable value of the TAD would increase six-fold by $19.5 million, they said. The city would continue to receive the $137,000 in property taxes that it currently gets for the life of the TAD.
The development is expected to create 750 permanent jobs and any LOST and TPLOST revenue generated by the retail activity in the TAD will go to the city, the developers have said.
The project would become the city’s seventh TAD since voters passed a 2014 referendum, after rejecting a similar one in 2007. TADs already have been approved for Midtown East and Midtown West, Fort Benning Technology Park and the River District Development Plan, which includes Sixth Avenue/the Liberty District, Uptown and Second Avenue/City Village.
Davis said federal infrastructure dollars that are expected to soon materialize might be a more appropriate way to fund the project.
But city officials said Council’s 9-to-1 vote only approved plans to establish the TAD and not the specific project being proposed.
“This is the boundaries only; it’s not a project,” said City Manager Isaiah Hugley before the vote was taken. “Any projects that would go into the Tax Allocation District would have to come back before this body and be voted on and approved by this body.”