Perry’s Gen. Courtney Hodges Boulevard added to downtown development district

mstucka@macon.comMay 6, 2014 

PERRY -- Business owners along Perry’s dilapidated Gen. Courtney Hodges Boulevard were offered the city’s help Tuesday, but several businessmen said they didn’t want it. They got it, anyway.

Following a sometimes complex 34-minute discussion, a united City Council decided to bring the benefits of the Downtown Development Authority to Gen. Courtney Hodges Boulevard, which serves as one of the city’s entryways to its downtown and a connector from the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. Among the benefits are offers of low-cost loans to upgrade building facades and offers to supplement advertising money.

“We’re doing just fine like we are. What makes you all think we need that?” said Hoke Morrow, owner of Hoke’s Heating & Air.

Mary Beth Bass, the city’s economic development director, said not everyone’s building is in good shape. The Downtown Development Authority can help owners of properties that need and want the help, and the authority can also buy land for redevelopment, which would raise everyone’s property values.

Other business owners said they weren’t told of the meeting, though Bass said the city mailed about 400 letters. The city’s agenda wasn’t specific on the subject, causing more frustration for Jerry Whitney, owner of Perry Pawn Shop. Whitney said he doesn’t want anyone to tell him what to do. He questioned why City Council planned to vote Tuesday when so many people were uninformed about what the vote actually meant.

Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said if council rejected the measure Tuesday, it wouldn’t be able to reconsider it for another six months. Faircloth said the entirety of Tuesday’s plan was to bring all the benefits of a downtown development district to Gen. Courtney Hodges Boulevard without changing any of the restrictions on zoning, land use or regulations.

“Nothing will change in what you currently enjoy now under the current zoning, but it will include you under the benefits of the Downtown Development Authority,” Faircloth said.

Separately, City Council voted without opposition or significant discussion on the beginnings of a fire fee. Council performed the first of two readings on a fee district that would cover the entirety of the city.

No actual fee structure has been proposed. The additional money is intended to cover costs of expanding the fire department, which has spread its staff across two stations.

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