If last year you just couldn't get your fill of TADs, wait till you get a taste of IDDs.
Just the phrase "Infrastructure Development Districts" is more than a mouthful, and that's what people will be talking about in a briefing at 9 a.m. today in the Columbus Government Center council chambers.
Organized by city planners and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the public meeting is to help educate voters on a Georgia ballot question they'll be facing in November. If approved, it will change the state constitution so a local government can establish an IDD in a specific geographic area, where developers can issue tax-exempt bonds to fund the roads and sewers they want to build.
That may sound like a TAD or "Tax Allocation District," a concept Columbus voters rejected last year, but the similarity is limited. TADs were intended to help redevelop blighted areas with infrastructure improvements funded by government bonds, which would be paid off by increased tax collections resulting from higher property values.
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IDD bonds are issued by a private board overseeing the development and paid off by the people who buy or rent the property. The local government collects the money — and may charge a collection fee — but otherwise the money goes right back to the development.
"It's a self-imposed tax, when you get right down to it," said Rick Jones, Columbus' planning director. "I could see it happening with a conventional subdivision, where they may go in there and put the amenities in and so forth, but require the actual homeowners or homeowners' association to pay that off, or when they sell the property, take those proceeds and pay the bonds."
IDDs are touted as a way to fund a big development without burdening taxpayers with the infrastructure improvements and services needed. The districts can pay for water, sewer and storm-water services; solid-waste collection; roads, bridges and street lights; schools and parks; and fire protection.
"Private cities," critics call them.
"It allows developers, private developers, to form these IDDs and sell bonds like they're cities — tax-free, municipal bonds," said Mark Woodall, Georgia's legislative chair for the Sierra Club.
He lobbied against IDDs during the 2007 Georgia General Assembly, and cites at least two dangers:
"Number one, it's insane to let private developers have the powers of municipalities," he said. "Number two, it's horrible growth management, because these people can get in there and sell municipal-type bonds for all this infrastructure regardless of whether there's any water."
IDDs could spur development where the water supply is insufficient to sustain it, he said: "That's what we're looking at in Georgia. We're building all this stuff where there's no water, and this would just make it worse."
Proponents say IDDs would a give poor, rural county a way to get a major development it otherwise could not afford to attract. The local government does not have to assume the debt of financing the infrastructure, so its borrowing capacity is unaffected.
The board overseeing an IDD would be subject to the state's open records, open meetings and ethics laws, and required annually to hold a public hearing on its budget. It not only would finance but also maintain its infrastructure. It would not have the power of eminent domain or the authority to pass or enforce laws.
The IDD ballot question voters will see in November will ask: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the creation and comprehensive regulation or infrastructure development districts for the provision of infrastructure as authorized by local governments?"