Fort Valley wants public say on redevelopment plan

FORT VALLEY — Fort Valley has unveiled an urban redevelopment plan and is seeking the public’s input.

Thursday, the city will hold a public hearing on the plan at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

The plan deals primarily with the former Woolfolk Chemical site, the downtown area and the area around Fort Valley State University, and it focuses on commercial development.

The plan’s creation was spurred by the near completion of rehab work to the Woolfolk site, City Administrator Martha McAfee said.

The site is a 31-acre area that was once a Superfund site because of the pesticides and chemicals dumped there by manufacturers.

Charles King, the Environmental Protection Agency’s project manager for the site, said cleanup in the area should be completed within a year. Once finished, the site will either be used by the local government or for commercial development.

However, McAfee said that with the site’s stigma, it could be hard to get local development.

“We feel like we have to offer some type of incentive to get businesses to locate there and make it conducive to them,” McAfee said.

With the approval of an urban redevelopment plan, the city could move forward with creating “enterprise zones” and other designated areas where tax incentives could be offered,

Within enterprise zones, the city could allow for property tax abatements for new businesses. For the first year, the city would allow for 100 percent tax exemption. In the second year, 75 percent of the taxes would be exempted. In the third year, 25 percent of the taxes would be abated. The business would have to make its full tax payment after that.

Opportunity zones comprise census tracts with a poverty concentration of 15 percent or greater. Businesses within such a zone would need only to create two jobs to receive the maximum state credit of $3,500 per job.

Laura Mathis, director of public administration for the Middle Georgia Regional Development Center, said the opportunity zone could benefit almost any type of business.

Mathis said the input from the public hearing will be incorporated into the plan. The City Council is expected to vote on the plan at its March 19 meeting.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.