Beltline holding public meetings on tax increase that would fund completion of trail

People make their way along the Beltline last April.  STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: Schaefer

Credit: Schaefer

People make their way along the Beltline last April. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

The Atlanta Beltline is just over halfway through a series of public meetings on its proposal to increase taxes on businesses and apartment complexes around the multiuse path to help finance its final years of construction.

The Beltline will continue with virtual meetings focused on the northside and southeast portions of the trail at 6 p.m. on Monday and Thursday. Beltline officials will discuss the prospective “Special Service District” program and answer questions from the community.

The creation of the Special Service District could bring in $100 million in additional tax revenue over the next 10 years, Beltline officials said. Under the proposal, commercial and multifamily property owners would see an uptick in their annual property taxes; a property appraised at $1 million would pay an additional $800 per year, according to Beltline documents outlining the plan. Owner-occupied homes, condos or townhomes would not be subject to the tax increase.

The Atlanta City Council is currently considering legislation that would impose the tax hike.

Beltline CEO Clyde Higgs said the extra tax dollars would give the Beltline the ability to complete the full, 22-mile trail loop — potentially by 2029, a year ahead of schedule. With the additional funding, the agency estimates it would also be able to spend an additional $50 million on affordable housing, create 20,000 additional jobs, put $7 million toward support for small businesses and allocate up to $150 million of construction funding to minority-owned contractors.

“That is game-changing for us,” Higgs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. “If we didn’t have this, we would sputter along, and we do a half-mile here, half-mile there.”

The proposal also has the backing of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who said she is encouraged by the affordable housing and community revitalization components of the plan.

Some local groups are against the idea as currently proposed.

The Upper Westside Community Improvement District, a business organization in northwest Atlanta, recently passed a resolution stating the proposal would put an unfair burden on its area. The northwest trail is currently last on the Beltline’s list of segments that will be built and paved over the next eight years.

The CID said it would support the tax increase if the plan ensured that any taxes collected from businesses there would only be used to fund trail construction in that area.

The Beltline's Eastside trail. AJC File Photo

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The group BeltLine Rail Now, which advocates for transit along the Beltline, also issued a statement opposing the plan.

“The current proposal is far too narrow, and fails to connect to the full vision of the Atlanta Beltline that includes parks, trails, affordable housing, and Beltline transit for an increasingly congested city. We ask the City Council to include direct transit funding in any Special Service District,” the organization said.

The Beltline already has a Tax Allocation District that brings in funding, but it is not expected to create as much revenue as initially expected, Higgs said. Without the additional funding from the Special Service District, Beltline officials said, the final portions of the path will not be completed before 2030.

The tax increase would apply to land located in the Atlanta Beltline Planning Area, a zone that includes the TAD and properties within a half-mile on either side of the trail.

The Beltline has already held public meetings focused on the westside, southwest and northeast portions of the trail. All residents and business owners are able to attend any of the meetings, the Beltline said. Visit the Beltline’s website for information on how to access the meetings and submit questions.