Many of us get excited when we hear that a new business or restaurant is coming to the area. We are often excited to swing by that new shop or try the food at that just-opened eatery.
Tax allocation districts (commonly referred to as TADs) are a tool that can help attract those new businesses to Whitfield County and its cities, local officials often say. TADs freeze the value at which a property can be taxed for general revenue. Taxes collected on additional value created by improvements to the property are dedicated to pay for infrastructure, public artwork or other amenities to attract a developer or developers to that area.
Voters in 2014 gave the city councils of Cohutta, Dalton, Tunnel Hill and Varnell the ability to create TADs. So far, only the Dalton City Council has used those powers, creating four TADs. Whitfield County voters have twice rejected ballot measures that would have given the county Board of Commissioners the ability to create TADs in unincorporated parts of the county.
Tonight, the Varnell City Council plans to hold a public hearing on a redevelopment plan and to vote on whether to create a redevelopment district where TADs could be created. The meeting, which is open to the public, is at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
The proposed redevelopment district follows Cleveland Highway north from the city limits to just above the intersection with Highway 2 and then goes west along Highway 2 to the area around City Hall, according to Varnell Mayor Tom Dickson. That area encompasses most of the city's businesses.
The owners of Patterson Farms, a 74-acre, mixed commercial and residential development just south of the city on Cleveland Highway, have requested that it be annexed into the city. Dickson said as soon as that annexation is finalized Patterson Farms will also be included in the redevelopment district.
Dickson said approving the redevelopment district does not commit the City Council members to any particular TADs. He said property owners and developers would have to bring projects to the council members, who would vote on each TAD proposal separately.
"There's a lot of work that goes into preparing the paperwork, logistics, the legal side of creating a redevelopment plan," Dickson told this newspaper. "We are excited about the opportunities for growth, and this is a tool that can open up more possibilities."
We encourage all residents of Varnell to attend tonight's meeting. Tell the City Council members whether you think creating a redevelopment district is a good idea or not. They are listening.