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Downtown Augusta business district still seeking support

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 7:26 PM
Last updated Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 2:08 AM
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The withdrawal of support by downtown Augusta’s largest property owner hasn’t daunted Downtown Development Authority Director Margaret Woodard’s commitment to the Business Improvement District.

The tax district funds the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative and is due to expire Dec. 31. Robert Kuhar, the vice president for properties and facilities at Morris Communications Co. and the chairman of the board that governs the downtown initiative, confirmed Thursday that a proposal to extend the voluntary district will not get the company’s four votes. Morris Communications owns The Augusta Chronicle.

Woodard said she needs 12 more votes to reach the 110 that constitute 51 percent of consenting property owners to continue the tax district.

“That’s the beauty of this process: Everyone gets a vote,” Woodard said. “We’re out getting signatures; we pulled in eight yesterday.”

Created under state law, the business district requires the consent of property owners within its boundaries. That consent can come in two forms, either by a majority of individual owners or a majority of the district’s assessed value.

Five years ago, the district enjoyed both types of consent when it went before the Augusta Commission for approval. With Morris’ withdrawal, however, “we won’t make the assessed value” method for renewal, Woodard said.

A Chronicle analysis of property records in July found that about 260 individual property owners held $193 million in property within the district’s boundaries.

The largest owner was Augusta Riverfront LLC, which shares management with Morris. Three others in the top 10 were the tax-exempt city government, the Richmond County Board of Education and the state of Georgia.

Each taxable individual, limited liability company or other entity gets a vote, Woodard said.

Another large property owner with at least three votes toward the district was noncommittal. Julian Osbon, whose businesses own several rental properties in the district, said, said that, despite his previous support, renewing the district was a question his business “had been wrestling with” in the down economy. The company pays roughly $10,000 in added taxes each year for business district services.

“The revenue hasn’t been coming in, and it’s been getting down to simply a financial matter,” he said.

Osbon said he has turned management of the properties over to his son Michael and would leave the decision to him.

City Administrator Fred Russell said property owners shouldn’t expect the same level of service if the district isn’t renewed, unless the city cuts services somewhere else.

Commission member Jer­ry Brigham wasn’t optimistic that the signatures would materialize by Tuesday.

“I look at it kind of like a street-lighting district,” he said. “If a majority of people want it, fine; if a majority don’t want it, it’s fine.”

Woodard said she’ll reveal Monday whether a committee assigned to gain support finds the needed votes. If they’re there, Woodard said, she’ll present the business district management plan, which closely resembles the one approved five years ago, to the commission and reveal the entire list of votes.

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OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/14/12 - 12:02 am
3
0
na na na hey hey

Good bye.

BTW: having hobbled along on Broad St a few times this year for Physical Therapy ... I too would be asking Mr. Fred where the $$$ went.

The Tag Signs along the street and on buildings in many places trash on the side walks and broke bottles in the gutters.

Just use some jail birds to clean it up at Zero Additional cost.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 12/14/12 - 07:36 am
2
1
Open Curtain said:

Just use some jail birds to clean it up at Zero Additional cost.

They can't. They are busy cutting Diamond Lakes grass. That is a full time job.

Besides, I rather they mosey out our way and clean our ditches and cut back the stuff like they used to do. Forget downtown..they can clean up in front of their places like we have to do.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/14/12 - 08:04 am
3
1
Tullie - just did a count

there's 859 inmates +/- a few.
Based on the RCSO inmate inquiry URL, 86 pages at 10 per page.....So there no labor shortage and plenty to go around.

Because I would not want to be accused of being a hippocric, after complaining about the city using more South Side tax $$$ downtown than on the South Side.

Therefore I must say, it is only fair that the South Side share equally with the city. After all most of the labor originated from the city.

Little Lamb
46420
Points
Little Lamb 12/14/12 - 09:02 am
3
0
Advocacy

Margaret Woodard is executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. That means she in effect is a government employee. She should not be advocating on either side (for or against) a tax referendum. The article above says, “We’re out getting signatures; we pulled in eight yesterday.”

Our tax dollars should not be paying employees to pound the pavement to get signatures for a tax.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/14/12 - 09:25 am
1
0
This tax needs to disappear

This tax has been nothing but a slush fund for the DDA since it started. It was supposed to be about increased safety, but somehow $350,000 a year hasn't done anything but produce a few guys sweeping up trash. Where has all that money been going? Somebody besides the self serving DDA board of directors needs to start asking some real questions!

Frank I
1191
Points
Frank I 12/14/12 - 09:39 am
3
0
"City Administrator Fred

"City Administrator Fred Russell said property owners shouldn’t expect the same level of service if the district isn’t renewed, unless the city cuts services somewhere else."

The BID is meant to be in addition to services already provided, not a replacement. For Russell to threaten diminished services is a hollow threat, or a disregard for the law in the way it was written. This perhaps is part of the problem with the BID in the first place. They have not provided services promised and the city has looked at it as a replacement, not an extension of what they should already provide.

Little Lamb
46420
Points
Little Lamb 12/14/12 - 11:46 am
0
0
Earlier

Follow this link to a story about the BID earlier in the week and look at the photo. It shows two CADI employees (paid by the BID tax) cleaning up leaves. One has a broom and one has a blower.

If the BID tax is not renewed and Fred (What, me worry?) Russell makes good on his threat not to pick up the slack when CADI disappears, then the downtown property owners can call the Georgia Forestry Commission, get burn permits, and burn those leaves all over downtown. They could take turns on different days or just collaborate and have a giant leaf and twig burning, maybe on a First Friday complete with roasted marshmallows.

That might get Russell's attention.

grinder48
1989
Points
grinder48 12/14/12 - 12:16 pm
0
0
Prison Labor
Unpublished

Some folks above suggested prison labor in a somewhat biting / sarcastic way but I do wonder - seriously - what ever happened to having prisoners do this kind of work? Seems to me that tax payers are supporting them to lie around inside watching TV all day. Why are they not cleaning the streets instead of have an additional tax? I'd really appreciate a serious answer to that question and what can be done to make that happen. Thanks

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 12/14/12 - 12:18 pm
0
0
BooHoooooo
Unpublished

Poor DDA nobody feels sorry for you....Now delete that Sean!

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