An innovative way for Villa Rica to launch new development in the city could be placed on the ballot this November, if the state legislature approves the referendum this session.
City leaders are hoping voters will authorize the city to use a relatively new method of financing new development called a Tax Allocation District, or TAD. It is a method several cities in Georgia have used to develop areas in a way that theoretically pays for itself.
TADs are a defined geographical region in which a share of property tax revenues pays for infrastructure expansion. TADs have been used successfully in other Georgia cities, notably Atlanta, where the revenue generated by the Atlantic Station development paid the city’s cost of expanding its services to the complex.
The method has not yet been used in west Georgia, although Douglasville is seeking the same kind of referendum that Villa Rica is pursuing.
TADs are meant to encourage developers to build in certain underdeveloped or blighted areas of a city, since public dollars pay part of the cost. As the development grows, the property gains in value; part of the taxes on the improved property then repays the city’s costs.
To be authorized to create TADs, cities must go through a complicated process. But once that is complete, the cities can create the tax zones wherever their leaders feel a potential development can significantly boost the city’s tax digest.
The first step, which Villa Rica took at its Jan. 9 City Council meeting, is to petition the city’s legislative delegation to authorize a citywide referendum that would allow Villa Rica to create TADs under the state’s Redevelopment Powers Law.
The next step would be for the voters to approve the referendum, and the final step would be for the county and county school board to agree to receive the same tax revenue as they took prior to the development being built. That last step is essential, because the new tax revenue is what essential makes the development self-funding.
No one who lives in the TAD area will see higher taxes — residents would pay taxes based, as usual, on the millage rates set by the city, the county and the school board. But when those revenues are collected and divvied up by the county, the three governmental agencies would collect the same money they did before the area was developed; the balance would go to repay the city’s redevelopment costs.
Christopher Pike, director of Downtown Development and Tourism, said that the request for a referendum had already been forwarded to Villa Rica’s representatives at the state Legislature.
The city’s hope is that the local bill those lawmakers would introduce would be approved in the House and Senate, and signed by the governor, in time for the question to be placed on the November ballot. No such bill had been introduced as of late Wednesday.
Pike said that if voters eventually approve, there are a number of areas in the city that could be designated as TADs, including some industrial zones.
However, city officials have already discussed whether one development plan already on the drawing board could benefit as a TAD.
The city is planning a new, low-density roadway that would connect Punkintown Road/Mirror Lake Boulevard to downtown, near the area now occupied by The Mill amphitheater. There, the city hopes to build a hotel-conference-museum complex.
Development along that corridor could fundamentally change the character of downtown, and city officials have discussed the possibility of using a TAD to pay for the new pipes and other city infrastructure the area would need.