Published on August 4th, 2015 |0
Former city COO Labovitz: Buckhead CID is one of very best
However, Labovitz added that stakeholder members of CIDs throughout the city are asking why they are providing the funding for activities the city should be paying for, such as maintenance of roads, sidewalks, park areas, etc.
Labovitz started out by telling the BBA audience he would talk about two issues: Transportation and the top areas for real estate investment in the metro Atlanta market for the future decades.
He said that the last time he spoke before the BBA was an attempt to drum up voter support for the failed transportation SPLOST. He said the SPLOST failed because people were voting on projects they didn’t care about…that didn’t directly affect them.
But Labovitz said Atlanta, Georgia and all states are facing real problems with the Federal Highway Trust Fund—the key source of federal funding for transportation initiatives—being stalled in Congress and not growing to meet the needs.
“The federal fuel tax has not changed since the 1990s,” he told the group. “And now there is a threat to cut off federal subsidies to the states.”
The Buckhead CID has been faced recently with the problem of not only a lack of available federal funds for projects on the books and underway, but also delays caused by additional bureaucracy tied to project approvals and release of funds.
Two examples of that are the left-turn lane project at Piedmont and Habersham roads, which is partially funded by both the BCID and federal government through the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and Phase 3 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project, which also is partially funded by the feds.
The BCID board recently was told that without federal funding, both of those two projects could have been completed a long time ago.
Today, in order to get projects done, they have to rely on public/private partnerships, which is where the CIDs come into play, Labovitz explained.
Traditionally, GDOT designed, built and managed the projects. The new way is for GDOT to design, build and finance the projects. The payoff is supposed to come
from the Federal Highway Transfer Funds, but those are drying up.
Labovitz also turned his attention to the recently approved Atlanta Infrastructure Bond issue, explaining that it is primarily for repairing existing aging and crumbling infrastructure within the city, not for new projects. It is a maintenance bond issue.
“One of the problems is that it is City Council driven,” Labovitz stated. “It is not dealing with needs where there are traffic problems, but spreading the funds around everywhere, almost equally to all 12 of the City Council districts.
Labovitz also said the recently passed Georgia House Bill 170, designed to ease some of the transportation funding problems in the state, “has issues. One is that it only goes out in five-year increments,” he stated.
“In order for the county to get its full share, there has to be an intergovernmental agreement among all cities, a difficult thing to accomplish,” he added.
Labovitz, who over the years has helped set up many of the TADs and CIDs that have helped provide developers with incentives to build projects and helped improve areas of the city, also talked about development impact fees the city collects.
“Developers are supposed to pay impact fees to the city to improve the project to the environs that surround it”, he explained. “However, the city has taken the position the funds can be spent anywhere in the city.”
Labovitz pointed to the recent situation with the long-stalled Moores Mill Shopping Center redevelopment project, which Dist. 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore finally got City Council to approve
$800,000 for a road extension that is critical to the project.
But he pointed out the funds for the District 9 project likely will end up being scuttled because the majority of the Council voted to split all of the rest of the city transit funds evenly among each of the council districts, whether or not they had projects that needed the funds. Labovitz said that action was not only irresponsible, but also very likely illegal according to state law.
Buckhead was not one of the three key areas Labovitz tagged for future real estate investment, although the Buckhead area is very much booming with growth today.
Lavovitz’s three areas were:
Atlanta West Side, because of the new Dome , connectivity to downtown and other areas around it, the amount of money being invested in the area by the city and the Falcon’s organization, and the development of the Bellwood Quarry in the near future.
The new soccer facility area along Memorial Drive inside I-285 in DeKalb County and behind the DeKalb County Jail.
The airport south to South Fulton Parkway, Serenbe and the Fox Hall development (there are 65,000 acres of undeveloped land between the airport and there), with the new Porche facility being just the start of things to come.
Of the three, he believes the south area offers the greatest opportunity.