Beltline proposes tax increase for businesses to fund final path construction

Aleta Mills-Stubin, left, and her son Marcus ride their bicycles along the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail in Atlanta in July. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Aleta Mills-Stubin, left, and her son Marcus ride their bicycles along the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail in Atlanta in July. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The Atlanta Beltline is asking for a slight tax increase on businesses and apartment complexes around the multiuse path to help finance the final years of the Beltline’s construction.

The creation of a “Special Service District” around the Beltline 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, for example. Owner-occupied homes, condos or townhomes would not be subject to the tax increase.

Atlanta City Councilman Dustin Hillis introduced three ordinances at Tuesday’s Atlanta City Council meeting that would create the Special Service District. The city must sign off before the tax is levied.

Beltline CEO Clyde Higgs said the extra tax dollars, which would be used to finance bonds, give the Beltline “line of sight” to complete the full, 22-mile trail loop — potentially by 2029, a year ahead of schedule. 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 said. “If we didn’t have this, we would sputter along, and we do a half-mile here, half-mile there.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also backs the idea. She said in a statement Tuesday evening that the additional funding “moves us one step closer to our vision for creating One Atlanta. I am encouraged by this latest commitment to move our plans for affordable housing and community revitalization forward.”

The Beltline said its conversations with several large property owners along the Beltline, including Ponce City Market and Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, have been positive. They are generally supportive of the idea because they understand they would benefit from a completed Beltline path, Higgs said.

“They are paying a little bit to get a whole lot of benefit,” said Hillis, whose district includes much of northwest Atlanta. “We’ve been waiting 15 years now for a trail, and neighborhoods in my district and the southside have heard time and time again about delays and money. So this is going to help close that gap and get the trail built.”

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 trail 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 agency expects to also receive $100 million from philanthropic contributions to fund trail construction.