Macon council votes to expand Second Street tax incentive area

Funding proposed streetcar line would require bigger area, council hears

jgaines@macon.comNovember 27, 2012 

Macon City Council voted 13-0 for three related items at a special meeting Tuesday night, clearing the way for expansion of the tax-incentive district along the proposed Second Street corridor.

Much of the reason for the expansion, according to Mayor Robert Reichert and Laura Mathis, deputy director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, is the proposal to add a streetcar station near Mercer University’s new football stadium.

The ordinance and two resolutions approved spending $35,000 on legal work for the district expansion, preparing the amended redevelopment plan and meeting state requirements for its approval. Council members Henry Ficklin and Nancy White were absent.

Reichert apologized for calling a special meeting of council, but said one had to be held in the next month in order to get the expanded district approved by the state Department of Revenue by the end of this year.

“If we fail in doing that, then the earliest we could accomplish it is Dec. 31 of 2013,” he said.

Attorney Kevin Brown said the state only recognizes such changes at the end of each year. Since the law requires a public meeting to be advertised and held in addition to getting council approval, there’s little time to get the expansion certified before year’s end, he said.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at Macon City Hall, 700 Poplar St. A final version of the amended plan should be up for adoption at the Dec. 18 council meeting.

A streetcar line connecting the stadium on Mercer’s campus with the Macon Coliseum and Wilson Convention Center across the Ocmulgee River is an idea that’s “resonating the most” in public discussion, Reichert said.

Because of the new stadium, officials believe the adjacent parts of Little Richard Penniman Boulevard and Mercer University Drive will be the first part of the proposed corridor to see new development, he said.

According to a projection in Mathis’ presentation to council, the streetcar line would need $20 million in infrastructure spending, almost doubling the current projected infrastructure costs for turning Second Street into a pedestrian-friendly corridor.

The special purpose local option sales tax voters approved a year ago includes $8 million for the first phase of the project, joining Second Street itself to Penniman via a curving connector road.

That would create a continuous corridor from the east side of the river to Interstate 75 at Mercer University Drive, which Reichert hopes to make into a landscaped showpiece lined with businesses.

In 2010 the city created a tax allocation district, or TAD, on part of Second Street. A TAD allows future increased tax revenue from a redeveloped area to go for repaying the cost of new infrastructure.

The current TAD extends for a block or two on either side of Second Street from Plum Street to Ash Street, with a few more parcels strung out between Ash and the beginning of Penniman.

The expanded area will nearly double the district, adding 74 acres on the south side of Penniman between Telfair Street and Interstate 75, then parcels on both sides of Penniman across I-75 to Pio Nono Avenue. The portions across Madden Avenue toward Pio Nono were added at council members’ request, Mathis said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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