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Designation may bring opportunity
Redevelopment plan would hep north end of county
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Forsyth County News
Some northeastern Forsyth County businesses could receive a state tax credit as early as next year.

The Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 Thursday night to adopt an urban redevelopment plan for 1,732 acres near Exit 17 off Ga. 400.

The 400 North Urban Redevelopment Plan is the final step required before asking the state to declare the area an opportunity zone, which would offer tax breaks to businesses.

Overall, the plan aims to revive the area and attract employers.

“The objectives include things like promoting private investment in the area, creating jobs and increasing the local tax base,” said Tom Brown, the county’s assistant director of planning and development.

The tax credit rewards employers for creating jobs. Every two new jobs maintained per year would bring a $3,500 credit.

“The numbers can get large quickly,” Brown said. “With a business that can create and maintain 60 jobs for five years, we’re talking about over $1 million.”

The proposed zone would be in effect for 10 years, and businesses could claim the credit for up to five years.

The county’s involvement would be to uphold the redevelopment plan, Brown said.

That would include reviewing codes for the area, educating those affected and enforcing the plan. The state would handle the tax credits.

“County staff doesn’t have to monitor compliance,” said Commissioner Patrick Bell, whose district includes the proposed zone.

“It’s a relationship between the employer and the state.”

To qualify for the state-level opportunity zone, the area must have 15 percent or more of its population living at or below poverty. It must also follow a redevelopment plan and prove that distress and blight exist there.

The targeted area meets all these requirements, Brown said, citing assessed property values and volume of public safety calls as some examples of distress.

The state Department of Community Affairs likely will take about two to three months to review the plan, Brown said.

If it’s accepted, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce would then begin advertising the zone.

“From an economic standpoint, it truly does make us a little more competitive,” said James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

Additional businesses in the area could help some impoverished families living in the zone, said Nicole McCoy, executive director of Forsyth County Community Connection.

With so many resources in the county’s south end, she described Hwy. 369 as an “invisible line” that divides many of these families from services they need. The road runs through the middle of the proposed zone.

Other areas of the county where opportunity zoning could be sought have been identified.