Avondale Estates’ Board of Mayor of Commissioners is voting this week on whether to create an Urban Redevelopment Area, a board that, unlike the BOMC, can issue a bond anticipation note for financing projects that the city has given top priority.
This strategy, recommended by city consultants Davenport & Company, has never before been attempted by Avondale Estates. By issuing a BAN, the city has the ability to borrow money for projects without needing the voter approval required by a general obligation bond.
Commissioners will decide on this and several related issues during a special called meeting, 6 p.m., June 13 at city hall, 21 North Avondale Plaza.
Creating a URA proved unpopular with nearly everyone who spoke during the public comment portions of last week’s commission work session. Nearly 50 showed up to a meeting lasting well over four hours.
Prior to the meeting resident Liz Goodstein posted a comment online largely reflecting those citizen comments expressed during the work session. She wrote: “ … it should be troubling to every citizen that our BOMC is contemplating empowering itself to issue millions in bonds, a decision that will have consequences for decades, without consulting with the voters who will pay the bills.”
But during a recent interview with the AJC, City Manager Patrick Bryant said a referendum, if approved by voters, would actually cost the city more than borrowing through a BAN.
“With a BAN, you pay interest only on the amount of money that you borrow,” he said. “With a [general obligation bond], once approved, you start paying immediately on both the principal and interest. We are not taking the voice away from the public, but allowing the city to borrow as needed. This mechanism is in the best financial interests of the city and taxpayer.”
There are five projects that would get paid through the BAN: the Kensington storm water project, the north woods (north of Lake Avondale) storm water project, creation of a storm water master plan, restructuring of the Laredo Drive/Clarendon Avenue intersection and development of a roughly two-acre park in downtown. For now, the total estimated cost for these projects is $7 to $7.5 million
The park is part of a larger proposed development of five city-owned acres that would include two commercial buildings fronting North Avondale Road, a project that Avondale official deem crucial.
Decatur-based Fabric Developers was the only company giving the city a response to its Request for Qualifications to design and build this commercial portion. Bryant points out that creating a URA allows the city to enter into negotiations with Fabric, which helped create the acclaimed Parsons Alley in Duluth.
He also points out the city can’t afford procrastination.
“There is a risk if we aren’t expedient,” Bryant said. “We need that [five acre] project to generate revenue and improve the quality of life in Avondale. It is critical for Avondale to establish a diverse economy (the city’s tax base is 90 percent residential) to sustain itself into the future.”
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