In the midst of the ongoing debate about the future of the community around North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Roads, I decided to ask the neighborhoods in my State House district that would be most directly impacted by the proposed high-density, mixed-use development what they think about it.
318 households from Merry Hills and the North Druid Hills Residents Association responded to a survey conducted in hard copy format and with a follow-up telephone call to households that did not respond to the paper survey.
The question that was asked was as follows:
Do you support the proposed high-density, mixed-use development at the intersection of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Roads?
Yes, but only if the transportation infrastructure, traffic flow, sidewalks, streetscapes, and greenspace are improved; or
The following results reveal that a significant, but not overwhelming, majority of households are opposed to the efforts to redevelop the area:
No : 169 respondents: 53.1%
Yes, with conditions: 135 respondents: 42.5%
Yes, unconditionally: 14 respondents: 4.4%
Thus, 53.1% said “no” and 46.9% said “yes” to the proposed new development. While these results are not from a true scientific poll, the high number of respondents makes them fairly reliable. Respondents were not pushed to give a particular response, either positive or negative.
I am surprised at the speed with which the proposed tax allocation district (TAD) for the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff intersection is being rushed through the approval process. Within the very short time span of two weeks, an informational meeting, a public hearing (held on the first night of Chanukah, for a proposal that will impact the Orthodox Jewish community in Merry Hills and along LaVista Road), and a county commission vote will have been held to adopt the TAD. The vote is scheduled for the DeKalb County Commission meeting this Tuesday, December 11, at 9:00 a.m., in the Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, in Downtown Decatur.
A TAD relies on the property tax increases that result from year-to-year increases in assessed property values. The annual property tax increases inside the TAD are captured and applied to infrastructure improvements within the TAD boundaries, which in this case is almost entirely comprised of commercial property such as Loehmann’s Plaza, Executive Park, Target, and the potential Sembler property
However, in order to entice the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) to participate in the TAD and give up the property tax revenues from inside the TAD that DCSS otherwise would receive, proponents of the TAD are hoping for a “halo effect” outside the TAD. The “halo effect” means that tax increases which would result from assessment increases on properties (including residential properties in neighborhoods such as Merry Hills and the North Druid Hills Residents Association) outside the TAD boundaries would be greater than the tax increases from assessment increases on properties inside the TAD boundaries. Thus, in theory, DCSS would give up a little in property taxes, but still net an increase in property taxes, which existing residential property owners would be forced to pay, to fund education.
A “halo effect” in an area like Toco Hills where the median home sale price already is a robust $411,901 could make residential property taxes unbearable. Any way you slice it, the so-called “halo effect” constitutes a residential property tax hike.
DCSS has not yet made a decision whether to participate in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff TAD, thereby giving up its portion of the property tax increases within the TAD to fund infrastructure improvements within the TAD. In a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the board of education appeared to be caught flat-footed by how quickly the county commission is moving to approve the TAD.
Is there an alternative? Yes, a community improvement district (CID). A CID is a self-taxing district in which the business owners elect to have additional property taxes assessed against their commercial property in order to help fund infrastructure upgrades within the CID. A CID would be more akin to the pay-to-play impact fees that the county at one time said it would impose on new development.