City of Cumming officials, along with members of a neighborhood just off Buford Dam Road, will form a group to look at a unique payment made by that community.
The Cumming City Council and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt decided to work with members of Marketplace Commons to decide the future of an $85 monthly fee paid only by members of that specific community.
The fee is added to the residents’ water bill and was first collected in April 2015.
The first residents moved into the neighborhood in February 2015.
City officials said $109,171 had been paid by the residents as of Aug. 31 and none of the money has been used yet for improvements.
There are 133 homes currently in the neighborhood.
“I think the appropriate thing would be to start a committee to study what options may serve the community best and maybe coming back at the next meeting and try to resolve this issue,” Gravitt said.
The residential portions of mixed-use zoning district MU are required to pay the fee under city rules, and Marketplace Commons is the first and only neighborhood zoned MU.
Adding to the frustrations is the fact that the commercial portion of the development, planned to go at the southwest intersection of Buford Dam and Sanders roads, has not been built.
Gravitt said the area had originally been considered for commercial development and the fee was meant to make up revenue the city would have earned from commercial properties.
Cumming does not collect property taxes, though homes in the county do pay county property taxes.
“It was all zoned commercial whenever the development of Market Place Boulevard was constructed. The lots where the homes are now was never developed and sat there for about 10 years undeveloped,” he said. “Due to the fact that different owners took over that property at some point during that 10 years.
“They came to the city wanting to change the zoning from commercial, which commercial would have provided a revenue stream for the services provided by the city in terms of sales tax, business licenses and so forth.”
Gravitt said the fee was “self-imposed” by the developer.
Marketplace Commons resident Deepak Aggarwal said he was not aware when buying the home he was paying an extra fee.
“When we started buying the house, we were under the impression that everyone in the community who is residing in the city would be paying the same fees,” Aggarwal said.
Some neighbors said they were unaware of the fee when they purchased their home, and others called the fee a tax on their property.
City Attorney Kevin Tallant said the funds go to the city’s general fund, which had been a point of contention for residents, but had to be spent in the neighborhood.
“We’ve given this opinion a couple of times that the money needs to be used for services in particular for this neighborhood,” Tallant said.
During the discussion councilmembers said as the first neighborhood under the rules, Marketplace Commons had been a pilot program for the fee.
Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter suggested having a sliding scale for how much is paid.
“I think you need to re-do the fees after so many years and then review or whatever,” Ledbetter said. “Because the developer can easily say, ‘Sure, $85 a house, that’s fine.’ They’re not paying it.”