Egbert Perry: GM Plant Project is an Economic Development Issue for the City, County and Region

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

The Assembly project is designed to meet Doraville’s vision for the rebirth of the city, to maximize connectivity within the area and to the surrounding communities, and to create a quality, public realm of parks, pedestrian ways and access to public transportation – particularly MARTA.

Unfortunately, by virtue of the significance of Assembly in terms of both land mass and economic potential, and its need for considerable public infrastructure to enable development, Doraville finds its vision for rebirth, and its future growth and development, being directly dictated and determined by the DeKalb County School District.

The name Assembly reflects on the site’s past as a GM assembly plant and the recognition of this project’s potential to bring together (assemble, if you will) parts of a city that has been fractured by the shuttering of the plant, a county in need of some big and important wins to improve its image and standing, and a region that is balkanized in far too many ways. Further, its location in DeKalb lends itself perfectly to being able to bring together the north and the south.

The current debate is not Assembly versus DCSD, as it is clear that the leadership at DCSD is doing a superb job in improving the education system.The reaccreditation is evidence of the latter point. This is an economic development issue for the city, county and region.

Consider the following:

  • TADs are not a new or unproven idea or concept.There are over 6,000 successful TADs in the US, included many in Georgia.

  • Suggestions that supporting TADs is akin to taking money for children’s education off the table to fund public infrastructure or a private developer are completely misleading. And, they insult the many private citizens and public officials, many of whom have kids in DeKalb County Schools.Instead, the sale of TAD Bonds funds the“public infrastructure” that make the development possible which, in turn, generate future “additional” real estate taxes that first go towards repayment of the bonds that funded the infrastructure.They then flow to the City of Doraville, DeKalb County and DeKalb County School System in their respective percentages.

  • Talking about the potential future real estate tax revenues as if they are going to be realized with or without the public infrastructure support is a fallacy. In fact, the new tax revenues will not materializewithout the public infrastructure investments, i.e., public roads, utilities,public parks, storm drainage systems, connection to transit, etc.

  • For obvious reasons, city and county governments combined have almost 100% of the public leadership responsibility for, and direct interest in, enabling the public infrastructure investments necessary to support the private development that produces the city’s and county’s long-term economic development, even though the new “additional” real estate tax revenues generated by those efforts flow disproportionately to the local school systems. In the case of DeKalb County, the new real estate tax revenues are shared as follows: city of Doraville (20 percent), DeKalb County (24 percent) and DeKalb County School System (56 percent).

  • The $200 million of TAD funding use to fund the public infrastructure to convert the Atlantic Steel Mill site into Atlantic Station did not similarly take money away from children. To the contrary, it is now contributing funds disproportionately to Atlanta Public Schools.

  • In addition to the non-real estate taxes and fees that are not captured for repayment of the TAD bonds, one of the biggest benefits of the TAD during the period when the new taxes are being deferred in order to repay the TAD bonds, there is a “halo effect” on the adjacent land, resulting in increases in tax revenues that flow immediately to the three jurisdictions.

  • The buyers of the bonds and the developer take all of the risk. There is no risk to the city, county or DCSD.

  • If DCSD was interested in supporting Doraville’s redevelopment efforts at Assembly, it would allow open negotiations to address whatever concerns it may have. The city is already losing business prospects at the site because of the lack of public infrastructure.

  • For example, if the funding of facilities was the concern, the amount of the TAD could be increased to include the building and/or renovation of school facilities.

Finally, in order to clear up the misinformation, a presentation by the developer to the entire DeKalb County School Board should be allowed. This would provide a forum for all questions about Assembly and TADs to be answered and/or clarified in the presence of all board members at the same time instead of hoping for accurate communications in closed private meetings. The case for a TAD at Assembly ought to be able to stand on its own merits.