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Plan to label downtown Augusta a 'slum' draws criticism

Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 7:48 PM
Last updated Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 12:49 PM
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Augusta’s willingness to call the downtown central business district a “slum” for the sake of special financing drew an immediate, visceral reaction from many in the community, but it’s not the first time the city and others have used Georgia’s Urban Redevelopment Law for help with troubled areas.

“To imply downtown is a slum completely lacks journalistic integrity,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver tweeted shortly after Friday’s Augusta Chronicle story was posted online.

Legal documents going before the city’s Finance Committee on Monday for approval, however, detail precisely why downtown Augusta fits the “slum” designation, and the word is used frequently in the documents.

Copenhaver did not return repeated phone messages seeking comment.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said Friday he was unaware such a designation was to be the basis for borrowing money to remodel Augusta Municipal Building and questioned the wisdom of such a decision.

City Administrator Fred Russell said Friday that it was unfortunate that Georgia legislators do require the characterization of a “slum” for an area to receive special benefits but that suffering through the designation will be useful to continue downtown revitalization.

“We’ve opened a door that provides a lot of opportunities in lots of different ways, and unfortunately had to use the word that the state requires,” Russell said. “Long-term, we thought this was the best way to position ourselves to continue the revitalization of downtown.”

The designation, if approved by the Augusta Commission, has the stated purpose of making the city eligible to issue about $26.5 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to complete renovations at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building.

It opens the door for the city to use other redevelopment tools, including making downtown businesses eligible for Opportunity Zone state job tax credits, waiving zoning and other planning requirements, obtaining and banking properties and selling them to selected buyers whose plans fit the area’s redevelopment plan.

The city used the same law in 2010 to create an Urban Redevelopment Area in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem historic districts and has since issued $8 million in bonds, with which consultants have acquired hundreds of blighted properties and completed 18 new houses.

Russell said the city hadn’t determined what else it would do with the downtown designation or whether the city will seek an Opportunity Zone designation.

The 1955-era redevelopment law has been used throughout the state, and though it occasionally ruffles feathers, it gives governments wider latitude to address problem areas, said Christian Lentz, the planning director for the CSRA Regional Commission.

The regional commission assisted governments in Grovetown, Washington and Thomson with developing Urban Redevelopment Plans for certain “slum” areas, Lentz said.

In the metro Atlanta area, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Union City, East Point and Dekalb County each designated several slum areas – to occasional public outcry about the word’s impact on property values – in 2010, mostly for the purpose of obtaining an Opportunity Zone designation.

Augusta’s designation requires a public hearing and the appointment of five board members. A prewritten resolution going for committee approval sets the date of that public hearing as Sept. 23.

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Pops
6937
Points
Pops 09/06/13 - 08:45 pm
18
1
So Mr. Mayor is acting like he cares

“To imply downtown is a slum completely lacks journalistic integrity,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver tweeted.

News for you Mr. Do Nothing.....this slum thing was not created by the media. They just happened to pick up on it and report it. Get a real job little fella.

countyman
19155
Points
countyman 09/06/13 - 08:59 pm
3
11
Double standard in local media

The CBD doesn't extend all the way to 15th street. Why is this getting more attention compared to North Augusta's riverfront being designated 'blighted'? All of the local media outlets are covering the story on Augusta. This is the second article in two days from the Chronicle, and WJBF even let George do an 'Out There Somewhere' on the designation. Where is the 'Out There Somewhere' on all of the new restaurants in Augusta, new retail, growing neighborhoods/areas, favorite nightlife scenes in Augusta, etc.

The headline was created to become eye-catching. The media obviously knows those type of headlines are red meat for the people who love to bash Augusta. I don't remember any headline from the Chronicle with the headline 'North Augusta officials designate riverfront blighted'.

I'm not surprise at the double standards in the media, because we see it all the time. The Chronicle let Sylvia write the editorial disagreeing with Augusta being ranked the 4th best place to retire, and 7th best place to live.. The Chronicle didn't create any editorial disagreeing with Martinez being ranked the 11th most affordable growing community.

The local media in Greenville which ranked the 6th best place to live published the article only six hours after the information was released. The Chronicle decided to let the editorial from Sylvia come out first before anything.... The next day they finally decided to print the articles related to the rankings, and they never mentioned the rankings on the news.

countyman
19155
Points
countyman 09/06/13 - 09:10 pm
3
9
last comment

I actually wouldn't have a problem with the headline if our local media was fair.

Where is the headline officials seek to designate North Augusta's Riverfront 'blighted'. Is North Augusta 'blighted'?

The Augusta Chronicle and the AJC are two completely different animals. The Augusta Chronicle is more bias towards Richmond County compared to Columbia County. Similar to the AJC falling in love with Fulton/DeKalb compared to Cobb or definitely Forsyth.

It's similar to when crime happens in Richmond County versus the suburban counties. They always have to interview people, and then ask do they feel safe in this particular area of Richmond County.

Gage Creed
15733
Points
Gage Creed 09/06/13 - 09:23 pm
7
0
Cheese anyone?

Cheese anyone?

Dixieman
12936
Points
Dixieman 09/06/13 - 09:29 pm
4
2
Downtown Augusta

Right, it's a perfumed rose garden, better than Eden.
Call it a mega-slum if it will get us back some $$$ we can put to use.

movingtoaugusta
62
Points
movingtoaugusta 09/06/13 - 09:53 pm
8
1
If you are going to demand respect from others,

If you are going to demand respect from others, you probably need to have respect for yourself. Oh, I am sorry, we don't want to teach our kids self respect, we want to teach them how to do anything it takes to get a free phone or some free federal dollars.

Give me, give me, give me. Disgusting.

Deke, thanks for the good work. You deserve better.

deestafford
23768
Points
deestafford 09/06/13 - 10:06 pm
8
0
Typical of politicians...

words don't mean what ''normal'' people think when they are trying to skirt their meaning in order to get money to do something that is over priced and the money is to be used for something different from what the original policies were intended.

Wasn't there a fairy tale where a character said something along the lines of "Words mean what I say they mean."? Must now be in a politician's handbook on how to get money.

raul
4151
Points
raul 09/06/13 - 10:36 pm
6
0
So we have a dilemma. Call

So we have a dilemma. Call your downtown a slum and get the money, or don't call downtown a slum and not get the money. Sounds like it boils down to money or pride. Which will it be?

dichotomy
30620
Points
dichotomy 09/06/13 - 10:48 pm
11
0
Just another scheme by a

Just another scheme by a government addicted to spending OUR money to obligate US to pay back ANOTHER $26.5 million dollars that WE have not authorized THEM to SPEND and that WE have not authorized THEM to TAX US TO PAY BACK.

How about South Richmond.....this is just more proof that they don't give a FIDDLER'S DAMN about anything but DOWNTOWN....especially about you. YOU ARE JUST HERE TO PAY THE BILLS AND GET NOTHING FOR YOUR MONEY. They will beg, borrow, lie, and steal to spend money downtown but all they have for you are the illegal, discriminatory, dual standard tax and fee system bills.

rebellious
20174
Points
rebellious 09/07/13 - 12:59 am
8
0
Slums

Before you can enter Alcoholics Anonymous, you must first admit you have a problem. You know "My name is (fill in the blank), and I'm an alcoholic".

Now Augusta can say "Hello I am an Augustan, and I live in a SLUM"

Makes me proud, don't know bout the rest of ya.

Secession from the city, anyone?

Dixieman
12936
Points
Dixieman 09/07/13 - 02:01 am
7
0
Okay, you guys are right....

....and I'm wrong. It's bad to call Augusta a slum to get $$. Don't do it.

On the other hand...Hey! I'm a slum! I'm a slum! Yo, over here!! I'm a slum!

Riverman1
79416
Points
Riverman1 09/07/13 - 04:09 am
11
0
Blighted Undeveloped Land vs. Downtown Slum

North Augusta promoters of a baseball stadium on the river called a 25 acre parcel of undeveloped land blighted. A few cities and towns in Georgia have had parts of their towns meet the criteria of being a slum. Augusta seeks official designation that almost its entire downtown area is a slum. It apparently easily meets the criteria. That's unusual.

I don't blame Deke for being upset, but doesn't he preside over the commission and administrator? Did he not see this coming? His "tabloid" comments were petty. He's got about as much knowledge of journalism as he does about municipal leadership demonstrated by him running to the beach during the Cherry Tree Crossing riots and turning his phone off.

geecheeriverman
1636
Points
geecheeriverman 09/07/13 - 04:59 am
3
0
Slum Area

A rose be any other name is still a rose

seenitB4
81464
Points
seenitB4 09/07/13 - 05:42 am
4
0
I just don't see it..

I just can't see countyman saying that he lives in a slum...nope--it won't happen.

Riverman1
79416
Points
Riverman1 09/07/13 - 05:52 am
3
0
Rebel, good point

Rebel, good point. I say if you are not part of the slum designated area you should be allowed to secede from the city because you want no part of it. Secession has a romantic, Gone With the Wind, feel about it. Someone pull the lanyard and fire on Ft. Sumter.

Brad Owens
4102
Points
Brad Owens 09/07/13 - 06:18 am
9
1
Well, Deke's family owns property inside the district.

This is about issuing bonds for renovations at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building, or downtown development?

I smell a rat..

nocnoc
38478
Points
nocnoc 09/07/13 - 07:28 am
6
0
What I am hearing from these nuts is:

We want $4$,$$$,$$$ and

You can rake whats left of ARC through the mud, and manure.
You can call ARC any name you want we have not self respect or pride about any thing when we can get $$$$$$.

I wonder what we could get a commissioner to do for a $1,000.

May be De-consolidation?
The $8,000 - $10k for votes would be worth it.
Then they could call Downtown a Cess pool, while we rebuild the County.

angedelune
223
Points
angedelune 09/07/13 - 08:30 am
5
1
get rid of the slumlords

if you don't want it to be called a slum, then get rid of the slum lords. you have property owners sitting on deteriorating buildings trying to sell them for much more than they are worth. MUCH MUCH more. Have the city tell them to fix up the property and make it attractive to potential buyers, or forfeit the property to the city, or are we all too scared of Mr. Morris, and Mrs. Ruben. i would also make the owners more beholden to their tenants, I saw were La Dolce Vida packed up and left in the middle of the night because they couldn't get the building owner to fix anything. We need to reign in these slumlords and make them accountable to the people (IE: McGillicuddy Works to name another example)

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/07/13 - 09:30 am
0
0
Alligator tears from Dekester. His eye is on N.A. construction.
Unpublished

Alligator tears from Dekester. His eye is on N.A. construction.

Conservative Man
5303
Points
Conservative Man 09/07/13 - 09:30 am
6
0
Opportunity Zone...

Great work Susan....but why NO mention of the fact that this very designation was used in 2010 for Harrisburg?...with NO public meeting NO public mention, illegally AND in the dead of night...Based on a study that George Patty admitted to community activist Lori Davis, did NOT exist..Ask Mr. Patty why this was allowed....Ask our "esteemed" Mayor why this happened?....These people are complicit in the steady decline of the once great city of Augusta and they are STILL getting away with it....under their so-called "leadership", Mr. Russell included, Richmond Co. will continue to flounder and they will indeed get their wish...Augusta WILL become a slum...sooner rather than later ...Thanks for nothing guys..

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/07/13 - 09:30 am
0
0
Lame duck mayor exits with "golden eggs".
Unpublished

Lame duck mayor exits with "golden eggs".

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/07/13 - 09:31 am
0
0
The Boardman-Copenhaver Stadium on the Savannah. So.
Unpublished

The Boardman-Copenhaver Stadium on the Savannah. So.

allhans
23267
Points
allhans 09/07/13 - 09:42 am
3
0
Atlanta probably approves of

Atlanta probably approves of the slum label for Augusta.

What will be done with the Municipal Building after renovation? Will it sit until it deteriorates again...
Evidently there was no money to keep it in good repair in the past , but there will now be???

Lori Davis
748
Points
Lori Davis 09/07/13 - 09:47 am
2
0
Conservative man is right. I

Conservative man is right. I also am wondering why Harrisburg was conveniently left out of the article. Susan???? The Powers that be know that the whole Harrisburg thing was done illegally. The application to the DCA from George Patty's office said that the statistics in the report were gained through a,"privately funded study." Harrisburg was declared a slum which pretty much fits, but was all done with out a public hearing and I found out after the fact, went to Mr. Patty who admitted there was no study. In Susan's article she says,"Augusta's designation requires a public hearing." I went all the way to the DCA to ask why there was no public hearing for Harrisburg and they told me that one was not required. I believe Deke was on the Board of the DCA at the time, or had just stepped down. In any event, the DCA is covering as well. This needs to be investigated. Who is going to do it? Sylvia, Susan, Mike Miller, George Eskola. What say you Countyman?

gcap
270
Points
gcap 09/07/13 - 10:36 am
4
0
All the name calling is meaningless.

If Augusta's moneyed citizens took interest in the city by developing their blighted properties, these folks would be even richer! Property values would rise. Retail would increase. More tourists would visit. And the tax base would rise and the city wouldn't need any slum dollars. Does any city leader understand this simple formula? Do the rich property owners WANT their investments to become more blighted? Seems to me the majority of commissioners and many city executives are retired federal or state government "workers." They seem to think government is the answer when, in fact, it's the problem. Do well-to-do Augustans feel the same?

nocnoc
38478
Points
nocnoc 09/07/13 - 11:04 am
1
0
Admittedly I just slimed the ReDevManual.doc

BUT A MAJOR Question:
It lists

Ineligible Applicants

and guess what ARC is listed?

The cities of Acworth, Albany, Alpharetta, Atlanta, Auburn, Austell, Ball Ground, Berkeley Lake, Brunswick, Buford, Canton, Chamblee, Chattahoochee, Clarkston, College Park, Dacula, Dalton, Decatur, Doraville, Duluth, East Point, Fairburn, Forest Park, Gainesville, Grayson, Hapeville, Hinesville, Holly Springs, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Kennesaw, Lake City, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Lithonia, Lovejoy, Macon, Marietta, Milton, Mountain Park, Norcross, Palmetto, Pine Lake, Powder Springs, Rest Haven, Riverdale, Rome, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Savannah, Smyrna, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Union City, Valdosta, Waleska, Warner Robins and Woodstock. Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County.

The consolidated governments of Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, Augusta-Richmond County and Columbus Consolidated Government. Any incorporated city within a HUD Entitlement Urban County that has chosen to participate through a Cooperating Agreement with the Urban County in the HUD Entitlement Program or any other community designated by HUD as an entitlement community.

Eligible Activities
Activities that are eligible under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended, and the HUD implementing regulations applicable to the State CDBG Program are eligible for funding under this special redevelopment set-aside.

Each activity listed in this section is eligible only to the extent that it eliminates or prevents slums or blight in an area designated by the applicant as such and benefits low- and moderate-income persons. For housing and public facilities projects, the minimum benefit to low- and moderate income persons is 70%. Projects that will result in job creation or retention or those that benefit to clientele must insure that at least 51 percent of the benefit is made available to low- and moderate-income persons.

Eligible activities
are those activities which help to prevent or eliminate slums and blighted conditions. These activities must meet the criteria of one of the three following categories:
Prevent or eliminate slums and blight on an area basis;
Prevent or eliminate slums and blight on a spot basis; or
Be in an urban renewal area.

Fiat_Lux
14847
Points
Fiat_Lux 09/07/13 - 11:33 am
2
0
I don't care very much about the "slum" designation, but

I care a great deal about incurring more debt that Richmond County working taxpayers will be forced to repay while the areas in which they live will not benefit in the slightest from the federal loan money.

Let the property owners in the newly designated slum area have a work party each month and deal with the mess themselves, even if they hire people to do the real work.

Meanwhile, designate the whole county a slum and deal with our crumbling infrastructure, including streets.

jimmymac
32898
Points
jimmymac 09/07/13 - 11:39 am
1
0
SLUM
Unpublished

News flash! Everything south of 10th street is a slum. Boarded up windows and empty store fronts is exactly what a slum looks like. This is a case of calling a spade a spade.

allhans
23267
Points
allhans 09/07/13 - 01:15 pm
2
0
So Augusta is not eligible

So Augusta is not eligible for the funds?

countyman
19155
Points
countyman 09/07/13 - 02:29 pm
2
7
The mayor won two straight

The mayor won two straight elections with over 60% of the vote each time.

When is the last time South Augusta had this much commercial development? The Dunkin Donuts, Firehouse Subgs, Walgreens, Hampton Inn hotel, 3 acre commercial development next to Walgreens, Walmart renovation, Five Guys, etc...

When is the last time Harrisburg and the Medical District were attracting new restaurants(Cookout) and large shopping centers(commercial development near Kroger) at the same time?

If the mayor can make the Cultural/Mills campus come to fruition. Deke will forever leave his imprint on Richmond County and the CSRA. The CBD, Harrisburg, and the Medical District will all grow much faster. Large companies would begin to flock here even faster and produce high paying manufacturing jobs in South Augusta/white collar office jobs in West Augusta.

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