In the September issue of the Decatur Focus, the city has compiled many of the commonly heard criticisms of commercial and mixed-use development downtown and provides replies…
Downtown multiple dwellings caused the increase in our current school population.
More multi-family developments will do the same. In the six downtown multi-family developments completed since 1999, there is a total of 45 students registered for the current school year. Seventeen attend elementary school, two attend FAVE, 11 attend Renfroe and seven attend Decatur High School. That is 45 students out of 641 units. This accounts for only 2 percent of the student population growth. The school system’s current student growth projections include estimates, developed by consultants, for the number of students likely to enroll from the projects currently under construction.
Downtown multiple dwellings have a negative impact on our school system.
Decatur School Board members have stated that it takes at least a $700,000 single-family home to generate enough local school tax revenue ($7,000) to cover the local cost of one student. For each additional school-aged child living in that house, the education costs have to be covered by other tax payers. The estimated combined value of the six multifamily buildings already occupied in downtown Decatur is $167 million, generating a total of $1.6 million in local school tax revenue each year. The total estimated cost to the school system from local funds for these 45 students is $315,000. That provides the school system with more than $1.2 million per year to be used to educate other children
The Callaway property would be more beneficial to the school system for school expansion.
The Callaway property is a 4.7-acre site that was owned by DeKalb County. As a tax-exempt property, it does not pay property taxes. The City of Decatur worked for 10 years to acquire this property for redevelopment to create new tax revenues to benefit City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur. A conservative estimate of the local property taxes of the redeveloped site is more than $400,000 per year, or enough to cover the local tax share for more than 55 students. We continue to work with the developer to increase the amount of office space proposed for the site because there is a growing need for new office space downtown.
Apartment developments will ruin downtown and our community.
A similar concern was heard when the downtown condominiums were being developed 15 years ago. A mix of housing choices is necessary to provide options for singles, young professionals and empty nesters who do not want to own property, and is at the core of Smart Growth Principles. Apartment developments are also treated like commercial property. Unlike residential condos, apartments aren’t eligible for homestead exemptions so pay the full tax rate to the city and the school system. The residents of these new downtown dwelling units, like the residents of the downtown condominiums, will become part of the downtown neighborhood that provides much of the market support for Decatur’s restaurant and retail businesses. They are an important resource in establishing and maintaining a successful community.
We need a plan for downtown development.
We have followed a consistent plan for development in downtown Decatur for the past 30-plus years. Our residents developed the first plan in 1982. It was updated in 1988, in 2000, and again in 2010. In addition, there are design standards in place that were upgraded last year after a year-long public input process. Over the years, the goal has been to encourage a mixed-use downtown community that offers walking, bicycling and transit options with less dependence on automobiles. Downtown Decatur is often used, regionally and nationally, as an example of how to manage planned, quality growth resulting in a vibrant and attractive place to live, work and play. The city works closely with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative Program to develop regular updates to the plans governing growth in our commercial districts.
We have too much development taking place in downtown Decatur.
Currently 85 percent of our property tax value is generated by single-family homes, leaving only 15 percent from commercial districts. This ratio should be more balanced but there is a very limited inventory of commercially zoned property and a very large number of tax-exempt properties in the downtown commercial district. To better balance the tax digest and reduce the local property tax burden for single-family property taxpayers, existing commercial properties in downtown Decatur and in East Decatur need to be developed at a reasonable density. Without development of commercial property, more of the local tax distribution will be shifted to single-family residential property owners.
Photo courtesy of Jane