Mayor Rusty Paul says Sandy Springs will pursue incentives for the redevelopment of the North End through a “revitalization zone.”

The incentives are intended to help carry out a city policy of sparking redevelopment along Roswell Road north of Dalrymple Road, where there are many older retail properties and apartment complexes, and where the city has commissioned a redevelopment study of four shopping centers.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul.

Paul said in a recent interview that the city is not decided on the borders for the zone. “We are still trying to define the geography and what kinds of incentives we want to put in there,” he said.

The city is looking into several incentive possibilities, Paul said, including both state and federal “opportunity zone” programs.

“We are looking at what’s available from other zone concepts that we could put together in that area to help drive revitalization,” Paul said.

Federal opportunity zones were created to spur economic development and job creation in “economically distressed” communities by providing tax benefits to investors, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Paul said in his days with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a similar proposal was introduced and, eventually, made its way to becoming a reality under the name “empowerment zone” with President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s.

The program ended following Clinton’s term, but in 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration reintroduced the concept as “qualified opportunity zones” as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Under

The IRS recognizes more than 8,700 federal opportunity zones, including 260 census tracts in Georgia, but none fall within Sandy Springs.

The state has its own opportunity zone program through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the city has one located along Roswell Road in an area mostly south of I-285. The zone was created in 2010 for the redevelopment of properties and allows businesses in the area that create new jobs to qualify for a state tax credit of up to $3,500.

The program falls under Georgia’s Redevelopment Powers Law and was adopted by the General Assembly in 1985. It gives local governments the authority to use the increased property tax revenue in specially defined areas to promote economic development.

According to the DCA, the department will consider designations for areas that are within or adjacent to a census block group with 15% or greater poverty where an enterprise zone or urban redevelopment plan exists.

A City Council work session was scheduled at a Dec. 3 meeting for city staff to present a “North End Revitalization Zone,” but the item was removed from the agenda on the city’s website before the meeting with no discussion and no explanation of what the term meant.

Paul said the item was pulled from the agenda because it was not ready to be brought to the City Council yet.

“It was taken off because it wasn’t ready for the council to act on it,” Paul said. “But there is nothing mysterious about it.”

Paul said the zone was removed because it will be explored with a consultant that has been hired to develop designs for four shopping centers in the North End and the North End Advisory Committee. The committee was approved at a Jan. 7 council meeting to advise and review the forthcoming North End redevelopment conceptual plans.

“You don’t want to make these decisions and then hire a consultant to come in afterward,” Paul said. “We kind of had the cart before the horse.”

 

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