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What can Cumming's new development authorities actually do?
city business
Downtown Cumming stirs with activity early on Thursday. The city of Cumming recently approved members for two groups to handle business development. - photo by Brian Paglia

New members of the city of Cumming’s development authority and downtown development authority were sworn in and took their first action this week.

Following Tuesday’s Cumming City Council work session, meetings were held for the development authority – a group that has existed since the 1970s, though all previous members’ terms have expired – and the downtown development authority, a new group.

City Attorney Kevin Tallant led the new members through the roles and powers of the groups, such as executing contracts and agreements, purchasing land and having agreements with a business lasting longer than a year.

“The city is bound by state law that it can only bind its current council. The way that gets interpreted is the city, except in very specific circumstances, cannot contract with anything for more than a year,” Tallant said.

“But the development authority, the downtown development authority, don’t have that same restriction, so if you needed to do a longer-term project, like wanted to enter into a long-term lease with someone for a piece of property, lots of times the city can’t do that and people don’t want to get into those kinds of arrangements.”

Both groups are made up of the same members, except Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter will serve on the development authority and Councilman Jason Evans on the downtown development authority.

The other members are Lisa Mason, Eric Bennett, Brad Garmon, David Leathers, Eric Kimbral and Kelly Lamb.

At Tuesday’s meeting, both boards elected Leathers as chairman, Lamb as vice chairwoman and city clerk Jeff Honea as the boards’ clerks.

Members of the groups will have staggered terms so in the future all members will not be replaced at once.

Mason, Bennett, Garmon and Leathers terms will expire on Jan. 1, 2021. Kimbral, Lamb and Evan’s terms will last through Jan. 2023.

As she is up for re-election this fall, Ledbetter’s term is only for this year.

Other than the difference of names, the downtown development authority has a power the other development authority does not: it can own property and collect rent.

“The downtown development authority is a little different than the development authority because the downtown development authority, y’all can actually act as a landlord. You can own a piece of property or have a piece of property leased to you, then you can enter into a sublease to lease it out to someone else,” Tallant said.

“A development authority can own a piece of property and then contract with a leasing company and let the leasing company take care of all that.”

Conversely, Tallant said the development authority would cover a larger area of the city.

The city’s development authority has a history of projects, including issuing bonds for the expansion of Tyson Foods in 1980 and helping with the building of the University of North Georgia’s Cumming Campus in 2012.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the development authority took its first action by unanimously approving moving money paid by UNG to the development authority back to the city.

“The city, back in 2012, loaned $4,050,000 to the development authority,” Tallant said. “The development authority, in turn, made a loan to UNG. UNG built the Cumming campus. UNG has been paying that money back to the development authority and then the development authority will pay that money back to the city.”

Mayor Troy Brumbalow said he expected the downtown development authority to meet more often than the development authority as city officials work on plans for the proposed Cumming City Center.

In December, the Cumming City Council approved members for the two groups.

Under state law, each city in the state has the option to have such a downtown authority, but it must be activated by local elected leaders.

Both groups will have a role in attracting businesses to the city, but all items approved by the authorities will have to go to the city council for final approval.