State lawmakers approved this week a request from the city of Dunwoody to increase its hotel/motel tax to raise nearly $2 million annually to fund trails and green space in Perimeter Center as well as cover costs to market and brand the trails that city leaders will attract more tourists to the city.
A similar request from the city of Brookhaven is expected to be approved Friday, March 24, according to Mayor John Ernst. The $650,000 raised annually to the city from the 5 percent to 8 percent hotel/motel tax increase is going toward funding a $9 million bond to pay for a portion of the Brookhaven’s Peachtree Creek Greenway linear park and multi-use path that is expected to one day connect to the Atlanta Beltline.
Ernst said the tax increase for Brookhaven includes a sunset clause and will be eliminated after the project is completed. However, he said he expects the new revenue stream from the tax increase will be able to attract federal and state dollars that will go toward completing the entire Greenway project.
The last day of the General Assembly session is slated for March 30.
Dunwoody’s bill to raise the hotel/motel tax now goes to the Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for his signature and then back to the City Council for a vote on the ordinance, including a list of potential projects.
The rate increase, if finally approved by the council, would go into effect in 2018. The tax increase would raise approximately $1.6 million a year; state law requires the city receive half that amount, or $800,000, and the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau receive the other $800,000 to use toward marketing and branding the new trails and green spaces.
For Brookhaven, the total amount expected to be raised annually is $1.3 million; the city receives half, or $650,000, while the remaining $650,000 must go to Discover DeKalb, the county’s tourism agency, because Brookhaven does not have its own CVB.
The bill to increase the hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent needed the OK from state Reps. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) and Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) as well as state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) before heading to the full House and Senate for a vote.
For Brookhaven, lawmakers that need to sign off on the local legislation also include Taylor, Hanson and Millar as well as state Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta).
The Dunwoody bill passed despite some strong opposition at first. Taylor and Millar both predicted publicly the bill would not pass – Taylor even told the council in February he thought the bill was “dead on arrival” while Millar said he could not support the bill because there was no specific project list.
However, lobbying of the legislators by Mayor Denis Shortal, Economic Development Director Michael Starling and Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Katie Williams and Treasurer Bill Grant succeeded in the waning days of the session.
Although Dunwoody does not have a specific project to fund like Brookhaven does, Starling has said the city has plans sitting on shelves ready to go once funding can be secured. These plans including Perimeter Park at the Dunwoody MARTA station, an idea that dates back to 2014.
There are also numerous Perimeter Community Improvement Districts plans to be completed, such as the 2012 PCIDs Commuter Trails Plan that outlines multi-use trails throughout Perimeter Center that would connect to trails in Sandy Springs and Brookhaven.
City staff prepared a map with all the plans outlined and list of potential projects and a map to show where the funding could be used.
Potential green spaces that would be funded by revenues from the tax increase include one adjacent to the Perimeter Center Parkway flyover bridge and another off Perimeter Center East at the Perimeter Center East exit off I-285.
Perimeter Center currently has no significant green space, a complaint made by council members, residents and also people visiting the city.