A developer recently talked with Milledgeville city officials concerning a blighted retail area within the community.
“This board, typically, does not get involved in retail, but one of the things I found out in working with this particular entity, other than the DDA (Downtown Development Authority), we really don’t have an entity in our community that works with retail in our community,” said Hank Griffeth, project manager with The Development Authority of Milledgeville and Baldwin County. “I do a little of it in my role with the city, but when it comes down to the potential for incentives or bond issuance or those kinds of things, we really don’t have anybody in that role.”
Griffeth’s comments were made at a recent DAMBC board meeting.
He told board members that during talks, it became apparent to him that if anything came as a result of such a discussion with them that it would need to be what he described as a “community-wide piece” with city, county and board of education officials.
“Based on that, Mr. (Barry) Jarrett asked if I would bring it to y’all,” Griffeth said. “I think if there is a potential to work with this particular developer, the potential would be for this development authority to work with our legal counsel and the city, and county and the board of ed to maybe look at creating a tax allocation district around this piece of property, because all of the property that could be in a tad could have the potential for redevelopment in it.”
Griffeth said he believed it was something that could be good for the community.
After informing them of the request by City Manager Barry Jarrett, Griffeth told board members he simply needed some direction as to whether or not that was something they might be interested in.
“Or should we hold off maybe because of not knowing what the financial situation is going to be for this development authority or do you want me to spend some time with Kevin (Brown, the DAMBC board attorney) in seeing what the possibilities there are, which obviously would be some legal cost for this authority if we did that. I just need some direction from y’all to know how to report back to these people.”
DAMBC Chairman Ed Walker asked if Jarrett made his request at a city council meeting.
“No, it did not,” Griffeth said. “This developer contacted Mr. Jarrett directly in terms of his first contact in looking for potential incentives to help redevelop this particular retail center. The more we discussed (this idea) the more apparent it became that while the property is in the incorporated city limits, if anything was done, it was probably going to have to be a community-wide effort.”
Griffeth shared his personal opinion about the idea with board members, too.
“I think the only thing we should do is look at the possibility of creating a tax allocation district in that area and utilizing that to assist them,” Griffeth said. “At this point and time, they have not been clear enough with me for me to be comfortable of doing anything else.”
He indicated he would like to know about the job outlook that such a venture might bring about, as well as capital investment, etc.
“They’re going to have to get a lot more specific on that before I even bring anything back to you,” Griffeth told DAMBC board members. “At this point in time, my general thought would be just some kind of detailed research on the potential for a tax allocation district.”
Griffeth explained that he could do a lot of that sort of work himself.
“There may be just a couple of legal questions down the road that I would need to bounce off Kevin,” Griffeth said.
Walker said anything the board could do to benefit the community seemed to him to be the right thing to do.
“Given the current climate, the only thing I wonder if it’s appropriate to reach out to city council, and the county commission and say, hey, this is something that we may be able to influence - does either entity have issue with us trying to influence it in a positive way,” Walker said. “And then go from there.”
Griffeth suggested he draft a letter to the city and county officials.
“That would be great,” Walker told him. “If they say that’s not something they want us to pursue, but I think part of it is also going to be what will each of them be on the hook for - I think that will derive their decision making.”