Residential property owners could tax themselves to help pay for such projects as the Atlanta BeltLine and the park over Ga. 400 under proposed new state legislation.
The concept is essentially a residential version of community improvement districts, where businesses band together to tax themselves, often for transportation or beautification projects. Buckhead’s central business district around Ga. 400 has a CID.
The director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, which is spearheading the idea for the park over Ga. 400, said his organization is not lobbying for the legislation, but would welcome using the additional funds for the park, which is estimated to cost $250 million to construct. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. documents show that organization has been exploring the possible creation of an improvement district since at least 2015. The BeltLine is a planned 22-mile loop of multiuse trails, parks and public transit that would eventually run through south Buckhead and the Lindbergh area.
Directors of the Perimeter CIDs and two downtown CIDs say their organizations have not been involved in the effort.
State Rep. Beth Beskin, who represents part of Buckhead, said she knows the idea to create a new entity, called a special improvement district, or SID, capable of taxing apartments is being discussed by community and business leaders as a way to fund the park over Ga. 400 and the BeltLine.
A CID is only allowed by law to tax commercial businesses, not commercial residential complexes, such as apartments. The new legislation, which is House Bill 642, would allow residential complexes to be taxed if it was approved by 51 percent of taxpayers in the proposed district.
“I know there are some people who would like an SID to benefit and help fund the idea of the Park over 400 and the Atlanta BeltLine,” Beskin said.
“There is a lot of support from the business community, not uniform support, but a lot who see this as a way to fund the park,” Beskin said.
Beskin wouldn’t name who was discussing this as a way to fund the park or whether they currently sit on the board of the Buckhead CID.
Jim Durrett, the executive director of the Buckhead CID, said the organization has not been pushing for this legislation, but would use it to fund the nonprofit that will control the park, which would be a 9-acre, half-mile-long park built atop a bridge-like structure over Ga. 400 between Lenox and Peachtree roads.
“I am aware that there has been some work done. It’s not something that the BCID has been pushing for or funding,” Durrett said.
The CID is in the process of creating a nonprofit that will build and run the park if it moves forward.
“The project is currently being transitioned to be controlled by an independent nonprofit. The CID in the future would be considering using this source to fund it. We’d use whatever funding mechanism available,” Durrett said.
Some residents near the proposed park, including residents of MeridianBuckhead condos, have had concerns they could be taxed to fund the park since the first public meeting on the park. The manager of the complex did not return requests for comment.
A 2017 Georgia State University study found that the Buckhead CID could bring in an additional $950,000 in revenue each year if all multifamily residential complexes within the current CID boundaries were taxed.
Documents from Atlanta Beltline, Inc. show that the organization has been pushing for the creation of a special improvement district. Documents detail studies on the creation of a special improvement district to fund the construction of the BeltLine. One 2016 study found that commercial and residential properties along the BeltLine could contribute more than $100 million towards its construction. Other revenue would be directed to “public safety, operations and maintenance support and programmatic enhancements,” according to another document.
ABI did not return requests for comment.
The bill’s lead sponsor is Atlanta Rep. Pat Gardner. Gardner’s district includes parts of Midtown and southwest Atlanta where the BeltLine would be built or has already been constructed. Gardner did not return requests for comment.
The Perimeter CIDs is a pair of jointly operated CIDs in Perimeter Center. Its director, Ann Hanlon, said her organization has not been pushing for the legislation.
“Our focus remains on serving the needs of our commercial property owners in the district, and making sure that our investments improve access for the entire community,” Hanlon said in an email.
A.J. Robinson, the president of the downtown CIDs, Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, said his organization is also not pushing for the legislation, but said he does hope CIDs will be able to tax residential developments in the future.
“We do believe, however, that commercial multifamily rental developments in our district and other CID areas are receiving a free ride on services provided by taxpayers in these areas. We hope that this inequity will be remedied in the future,” Robinson said in an email.