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Community improvement district proposed
Funds could go to new Ga. 400 exit in south Forsyth
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Forsyth County News

McGinnis Ferry Road could one day resemble the nearby Windward Parkway corridor if business and community leaders have their way.

That’s the goal of legislation District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth has introduced at the 2014 Georgia General Assembly. The measure proposes the creation of the South Forsyth Community Improvement District, or CID.

The process is lengthy and needs approval from the state legislature, a percentage of commercial property owners and the Forsyth County commission. But if ultimately approved, businesses in that area would be able to levy taxes on themselves to help fund improvements, specifically adding a McGinnis Ferry exit off Ga. 400.

“The intention is we would get some state and federal dollars together to complete the project,” Dudgeon said. “What’s happening is in a time of very limited transportation dollars, the state DOT is looking for matching funds from locals in order to be able to do projects.”

While Dudgeon has been working on the legislative portion of the bill, fellow Republican District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming has been handling the transportation issues.

Hamilton said the state’s transportation department would move the interchange project, estimated to cost about $38 million, into its five-year plan, provided local funding could be contributed.

According to Hamilton, it appears the local contribution amount from the district would be about $10 million to $12 million, and could also include some right-of-way donations to build the interchange.

The investment — both for existing and future businesses such as the Taubman project, a planned regional mall and mixed use project — would be worth it, Hamilton said.

“We estimate ... about $1 billion worth of economic development opportunity just around the mall area with the building of that mall,” Hamilton said. “And it’s going to create somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 12,000 jobs.

“Those numbers obviously help Forsyth County and north Fulton greatly, and so we think it will help having another interchange on Ga. 400 for moving of traffic.”

Hamilton added that the members of the local state legislative delegation plan to hold a public hearing on the issue this winter before they take an official stance.

The district isn’t just about Taubman, according to Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO James McCoy.

McCoy said there are about 280 businesses involved in the talks. That number could change as the process evolves and leaders determine a boundary map, which would likely include the area of McGinnis Ferry, McFarland and Union Hill roads.

Those involved are essentially voting to levy a tax on themselves, so all current and future businesses in the district would pay the extra tax.

Dudgeon said legislation likely would cap the millage rate at 5 mills, but the number being looked at would be closer to 3 mills.

Based on the size of the proposed district, each mill would raise about $1 million per year, McCoy said. The tax would likely also be capped at about 10 years and bonds would be issued to raise the money up front to make the improvements as quickly as possible.

According to McCoy, the businesses are making an investment in their future.

“It won’t happen on its own. The things that they are talking about won’t happen without their investment,” he said. “But just like in north Fulton, you can see when you’re coming up Ga. 400 the difference between the interchanges.”

Once business leaders have determined the boundary for the proposed district, Dudgeon said the matter would go to the Forsyth County commission for final approval.

Commission Chairman Pete Amos has been keeping tabs on the issue since the chamber first raised it years ago. While he wouldn’t speak for other commissioners, Amos said he’s a strong supporter of the effort.

“We’ll compare it to Windward when they get through with it,” he said. “I think it’s going to further bring businesses up Ga. 400, the types of businesses we do need to help keep our taxes low, development going and schools great.”

While the district would be located in the county’s extreme south end, all of Forsyth’s residents could benefit, Amos said.

“It will help increase the value of their property, help improve traffic flow in that part of the county and improve development, which would help keep their taxes down,” he said. “A sales tax is a sales tax no matter where it’s spent. South or north, we all benefit from it. It helps the entire community.”

Dudgeon said the issue would require consent from those who own at least three quarters of the commercial property in the proposed district, as well as half of the number of owners. Residential property owners would not be affected.

“This is a pretty well thought-out process to make sure that the little guy, who has a small property value, has representation, while at the same time, those with a little more property value get a little bit more,” Dudgeon said.

The district members would also approve six of the seven members on their board of directors, with the seventh being selected by the county commission.

Three members would be elected by owners voting as individuals, and the other three by owners electing by property value, Dudgeon said.

To McCoy, the creation of such a district is a “delicate balance, but it’s intentionally designed to be that way.”

“The good news about it being a complicated process is that these things do not happen overnight,” he said. “It takes a lot of community cooperation and leadership from the people who are going to be paying in and benefiting. This has been driven by commercial property owners and … I have 100 percent confidence.”