By John Schaffner
Will Buckhead residents who live along Peachtree Road and two to four streets on either side be willing to pay 25 percent higher property taxes to implement the proposals of the Peachtree Corridor Task Force—including streetcars?
According to District 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook and Scotty Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), that is exactly what is being proposed.
Speaking to a group of about 50 real estate agents and others at a forum on the “revitalization of Buckhead” June 21 at The Capital Grille, Greene first explained that the mayor’s task force recommended a special tax district—a 14-mile-long tax district—where businesses and residences within two to four blocks (yet to be determined) would pay additional taxes “to pay for capital investment along Peachtree.”
Greene, who was a member of the task force, said it is “a controversial recommendation and I anticipate a very strong public dialogue on that, as do City Council members, between now and October and November.”
“I have been hearing what you would consider to be rather predictable input from residents who live around here,” Shook said. After all, he pointed out, “we are talking about a 25 percent property tax increase.”
However, referring to the task force report, Shook explained, “It is very exciting. It includes a lot of great improvements that I am sure everyone in this room would love.
“It is going to make us a whole lot more integrated and functional. It is going to help the traffic. It is going to be a beautiful look and a kinder and gentler feel,” Shook told the group. “I am very excited about just about everything in it.”
The councilman said, “I think it is a shame that everyone thinks this is the streetcar report.” However, Shook stopped short of endorsing the streetcar concept. “Council is going to have questions and I am going to have to be convinced that it is going to enhance mobility rather than impede mobility.”
State Representative Edward Lindsey, of House District 54 in Buckhead, told the group, “We place an awful lot of burden already on property taxes. We have to start looking for other ways.
“Already 60 percent of property taxes are being poured into schools and sales tax as well,” Lindsey explained. “At some point we have to look at some other alternative means.”
Lindsey said that when you increase property taxes, “You are not taxing people on what they are able to pay, but rather on their holdings. That doesn’t necessarily correspond with someone’s ability to pay 25 percent more.”
The forum was sponsored by the Novare Group and its Gallery condominiums, presently under construction on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.
Responding to an audience question of why not raise the sales tax instead of raising property taxes to pay for the Peachtree Corridor plan, Greene explained, “When the CID were first established, most of the land along this corridor was envisioned and entitled under regulations to be office and commercial. What is taking the place of that is mixed-use projects with vertical residential development.
“As soon as that residential development opens, all of that property is taken off of the commercial tax roles relied on by the CID,” he continued. “Suddenly, the commercial property owners are paying their 3 mills for sidewalks, etc. to leverage your condominium.”
Greene said, “The taxation tug of war is a real one. One alternative being considered on the state level is a tax on parking.”