The City Council is considering starting its own development authority to try to spur economic growth.
A resolution to start the authority was on the agenda at Monday’s council meeting, but after a lively debate in the pre-council meeting, council members decided to table the issue until the next meeting. While some members wanted to wait to get more information, there appeared to be support for the idea.
The city has the Downtown Development Authority, which covers a limited area. It also has a Redevelopment Agency, which is charged with putting into place the urban development plan. But a development authority would have a broader mission and certain powers to promote economic growth, said City Attorney Jim Elliott.
Councilman Tim Thomas, one of the most vocal supporters of the idea, said a city-run authority would not be intended to compete with the Houston County Development Authority. He said the county authority is geared toward industry while the city’s authority could help with other types of growth. He said the city desperately needs it because economic growth has been stagnant.
“If we are going to grow, it is going to be because of this right here,” Thomas said, referring to the resolution.
Thomas and Councilman Clifford Holmes said they do not think the county’s development authority is doing as much as it should for the city.
“I live in the county, and you live in the county,” Holmes said to other council members. “And we live in the city. But what have they brought to the table for us?”
Mayor Randy Toms expressed support for the authority. He mentioned as an example that two apartment complexes were being planned that needed tax credits for providing low-income housing. A city authority could help with that, he said.
Councilman Keith Lauritsen said he liked the idea, but he wanted more time to weigh the pros and cons. Councilman Mike Davis seemed to be the most reluctant to support it. He said he wanted more time to talk to county officials about it.
“I just think we are jumping ahead of ourselves of this,” Davis said. “I don’t think we’ve had a good discussion on it yet.”
Council members agreed to each come up with a person to appoint to the authority by the next meeting in the event it is approved.
Also at the meeting the council discussed its two architect proposals for a new sports complex but did not make a decision.