The City of Cartersville Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval of a proposal to rezone a little under 17 acres off East Main Street for a proposed multifamily development in August
Yet the proposal from Cherokee Main Street III, LLC — anchored by Rome’s Robert H. Ledbetter, Jr., the same driving force behind Cartersville’s Kroger Marketplace shopping center — has yet to go before the Cartersville City Council for an official vote.
Prior to Thursday’s public meeting, Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini gave an update on why the item has stalled out for three months and counting. At the heart of the matter, he said, is the preexisting tax allocation district (TAD) designation authorized for the property.
“The developer is trying to find a way to alter the TAD district that they currently have and try to find a creative way to keep those TAD benefits for that property that they’re wanting to put those apartments on,” he said.
Questions arose when the rezoning request — which was coupled with an annexation request to bring an additional 1.945 acres of Bartow County property into the City of Cartersville as part of the multifamily project — went before the city council for a first reading in late August.
A 2014 City of Cartersville resolution describes the TAD as “an area where the increase in the tax digest above the current value is taxed, but instead of those funds going to the taxing jurisdiction, they are used to pay for various infrastructures.”
The City ultimately signed off on roughly $3 million in “tax-exempt debt” to get groundwork started on the 53-acre shopping center site, with an increment base established at $1,138,531.52.
That almost seven-year-old resolution notes that the tax-exempt debt could be issued for “in-line retail buildings in connection with the East Main Street Tax Allocation District,” but it makes no explicit mentions of residential uses.
If the proposed 200-unit-plus apartment project does come to fruition, Cartersville Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell noted that it could have major implications on the development’s TAD payments.
“Since a portion of this property will now be used for things that aren’t allowed in the TAD, if any of this was actually under the TAD itself, that part may be taken out,” he said in August
. “And that part may be taxed at its full, normal value.”
A second reading and council vote on the rezoning and annexation requests were originally scheduled to take place on Sept 3. The item, however, has been tabled repeatedly, with the requests currently slated to go before the council next month.
Santini said the applicant has requested meetings with representatives from Bartow County and the Cartersville City School System, but said he doesn’t believe either of those entities are interested in the discussion.
“They don’t feel, and I agree with them on this, that we should be doing anything that looks like we’re incentivizing the development of an apartment complex,” he said. “If we’re not going to do it for everybody, then we shouldn't do it for anybody.”
At that point, Santini made his opposition to the proposal clear.
“Obviously, the developer’s done a number of quality products in our community and we’re appreciative of that, but again, it’s business, it’s nothing personal,” he said. “It’s just not something that I believe is in the best interest of the community.”
If the applicant is to push ahead with the rezoning and annexation requests, Lovell said he anticipates the developer doing so without an altered TAD agreement.
”If they do go forward with the zoning and the TAD is not amended, there are certain penalties," he said. "They will have to make a decision whether or not it even makes economic sense for them to pay those penalties.”
That same meeting, the council also heard the first reading for another proposed multifamily development off East Main Street — this one a rezoning request for a possible 300-unit-plus development on 50 acres along Overlook Parkway.
“This is adjacent to a 210-unit zoning request that was previously approved that is between the subject property tonight and the Tru hotel,” he said.
The tract up for rezoning is part of an even larger 339-acre parcel.
“We bought this property back in 2006,” said applicant Rob Jordan. “It goes all the way up to Center Road and fronts all over I-75 and comes down almost to 113/Main Street.”
He told council members the project is targeting working professionals.
“They want good access to the interstate and they want good access to major attractions like downtown,” he said. “So we think that this project that we’ve designed sort of meets that demand.”
Jordan described the apartments as Class-A and market-rate, with a density that comes out to about seven units per acre.
“It’s not any sort of affordable housing or anything like that,” he said. “You have the one-bedrooms kind of averaging out in the $1,000-$,1500 a month range and those twos can get up into the $1,400s. And ya’ll know this — we’re going to charge as much as possible.”
A second reading — and potential council vote on the item — is slated for a public meeting at 10 North Public Square at 9 a.m. on Dec. 3.
Elsewhere on the agenda, council members voted unanimously to approve three amendments to the City’s alcohol ordinance. One amendment would allow alcohol permits to be suspended for licensees convicted of gambling offenses while another requires businesses licensed for package sales to turn over video surveillance to the Cartersville Police Department if a misdemeanor offense is suspected of occurring on the premises.
Council members also approved an ordinance amendment pertaining to purchase orders.
“Some of it is cleaning up the language that we’ve had that’s been outdated,” said Cartersville City Manager Dan Porta. “The other portion of it will allow the department heads to make purchases up to $2,500 without receiving prior approval — and then between $2,500 and $7,500, it needs approval by the City manager, anything above $7,500 would require council approval.”
Council also heard a first reading of — but took no action on — a proposed ordinance that would require homeowners with swimming pools to erect fences around those pools, even if they do happen to have mechanical pool covers.
Porta said the City sent the proposed text amendment to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for review earlier this year. The response from the State, Porta said, was effectively a two-page “no-comment,” erroneously addressed to the City of Norcross and dated Sept. 4, 4040.
Speaking of the DCA, the council also voted to approve a resolution to update its capital improvements element and community work program and submit them to the department for review.
“We are required to do this because we have an impact fee ordinance on the books in Cartersville although we don’t collect impact fees because we have amended our fee schedule for that,” Porta said. “It will be brought back to you in a final version, probably towards the end of January.”
Council also voted unanimously to approve an inter-participant transaction agreement with the City of Calhoun.
“We’re required to keep a 15% reserve capacity level on our generation, and we’re just a hair under that 15%,” said Cartersville Electric System Director Derek Hampton. “So in order to stay in compliance, this transaction would satisfy our shortfalls by purchasing some of Calhoun’s surplus generation at the amount of $6 per kilowatt for 473 kilowatts.”
The council also approved two requests from the municipal water department, including a final change order for a filter rehabilitation project that was originally approved almost two years ago.
“We have got the actual rehab work finished and I am happy to report that we are under budget,” said City of Cartersville Water Department Director Bob Jones. “As originally approved, the contract was $928,000. That was significantly under what we had anticipated, so we expanded the scope of the work to take in some additional things we needed to do.”
The project was authorized for $1,178,363 but was completed for $1,151,899.
Also approved was the department’s 2021 bulk chemical purchases.
“There were multiple products that had cost increases, we had some slight decreases, but the good news is that when we look at our anticipated volume and unit pricing here, this all should fall within our budgeted amounts,” Jones said. “So we are netting out good on this.”
Jones, however, did not specify an exact monetary amount for the combined purchases. Nor was the price tag outlined in City documents.
The meeting closed out with City of Cartersville Finance Director Tom Rhinehart giving an update on the municipality’s finances.
Compared to September 2019, he said the City’s general fund revenues decreased by $833,296 in September 2020. However, he said that general fund expenses also decreased by $382,976 over that same timeframe.
While local option sales tax revenue was down by $69,402, he also said that building permits and inspection fees increased by $8,354 from September 2019 to September 2020.
Without specifying the exact dollar amounts, he also indicated that the City’s unrestricted cash balance increased slightly in September while the City’s total restricted cash decreased slightly that month.
“Property tax dollars will be coming in in the next couple of months, along with sales tax dollars,” Porta said. “If they keep holding up as they have been we should, hopefully, be in a better shape as we go forward in the rest of this fiscal year.”