Posted: Thursday, September 19th 2013 at 9:25pm
Flowery Branch approves Urban Redevelopment Plan creation
By Marc Eggers Staff
FLOWERY BRANCH – The arrival of autumn is just days away but there are signs of vernal activity in Flowery Branch’s economic future.
City Finance Director Jeremy Perry spoke at Thursday night’s City Council meeting of budgets running in the black and how 123 building permits in the recently completed 2013 fiscal year broke the previous year’s total.
Councilman Joe Anglin said, as if to underscore Perry’s statistics, that he had been informed that 75 residential building permit requests were made in the first eighty days of fiscal 2014.
Council was even able to move available funds around in order to minimize or eliminate an increase in health insurance premiums for their employees.
But while the economics of Flowery Branch’s future look promising, the south Hall County municipality also has a past and the "historic" (used loosely) buildings to prove it.
Urban renewal has long been a goal of city leaders.
According to Jonathan Gelber, Senior Consultant for the Bleakley Advisory Group, the 2010 census shows an 18% pervasive poverty rate for the northern portion of the downtown area.
"Of the 69 parcels in the Opportunity Zone, 40 of them are dilapidated, obsolete, abandoned, or vacant lots," Gelber said. "Your commercial real estate rates for the downtown area are 43% percent (of occupancy) right now which is five times the submarket average."
In addition, the Flowery Branch police calculated that over 60% of the city’s crime occurs in the Opportunity Zone area.
So when the Georgia Department of Community Affairs announced a $3,500 tax credit incentive per job to employers in areas designated as being redeveloped or revitalized (Opportunity Zones), Flowery Branch leaders decided to jump at the opportunity.
That process has been underway for several weeks and now all that stood between the city and applying for status designating them eligible for the $3,500 tax credits was an approved Urban Redevelopment Plan.
In a unanimous vote Council members approved authorizing creation of that plan. (Note: Councilwoman Tara Richards was absent.) Gelber and John McHenry, Director of Planning and Community Development, promised to have the plan ready for submission to the DCA by the end of September.
"This is some real money when it comes to attracting companies from outside," Gelber added. "This is a valuable tool. It sort of has become a de facto thing that most recruiters are looking for when they start looking for places to locate businesses."
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