The following letter was sent to the members of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
Please do not approve Sembler’s request for a $51 million tax abatement or any portion of it for the Town Brookhaven development.
Sembler’s cost/benefit figures are fiction in that revenues generated by them are not created in a vacuum. Much of the sales tax revenues are merely revenues that are taken from other retailers in DeKalb, including nearby Chamblee and the retailers around the Brookhaven MARTA station. Part of the revenues are merely replacing the revenues from the affordable housing that existed there before.
CEO Burrell Ellis, if you do the math, there is no net benefit to DeKalb by providing this tax cut.
This property will not sit vacant for more than a year or two. It is prime real estate. Someone else will buy the buildings that have been built and make money from them and pay taxes. Take a look at the buildings.
As I went by on MARTA today, workers were working, and the buildings are too far along to be worth nothing. Someone will jump at the chance to finish if Sembler needs to declare bankruptcy. And if it does sit idle for a year or two, shouldn’t Sembler still be paying taxes on the improvements? In the meantime, neighboring retailers will generate tax revenues that would have merely shifted to this Sembler development.
At the very least, DeKalb should not be in the business of subsidizing development in areas that are not suffering from disinvestment pressures or are not otherwise blighted. While the numbers may still
look OK to you on a micro level, on a macro level government subsidy of developments like this is unprofitable.
With anchors like Costco, Marshall’s and Books a Million, this development can’t be justified on the grounds of promoting a more sustainable environment or development pattern. It was built in contradiction of the Livable Community Initiative guidelines and does not represent transit-oriented development. The development tore down a large stock of affordable housing that was in decent shape, and it got exemptions to pipe in several streams. The zoning was also approved over the objections of nearby neighborhoods.
I urge all elected officials to listen to your constituents to assure that no further tax cuts are provided to this project and also to make sure that in the future irresponsible developers like Sembler are not provided tax abatements for developments that are not necessary for economic development in an area or do not represent meaningful transit-oriented development that will truly replace car trips with alternative forms of transportation.
Also, the anchors Sembler mentioned contradict the alternative or locally owned eating establishments like FIGO that Sembler was promising.
Providing tax abatements to encourage development in blighted areas or to encourage transit-oriented development next to MARTA rail stations such as Kensington can make sense (this Brookhaven development is not transit-oriented development or close enough to the rail station).
Government tax cuts based on a skewed calculation to try to make money are not beneficial; they are merely a slippery slope that in the long run will undermine our tax base.
Thanks to the Brookhaven Reporter for covering this story.