Downtown businesses may pay higher taxes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Downtown businesses may pay higher taxes

November 15, 2006

Albany - - Development in downtown Albany isn't coming along as quickly as many people would like. City leaders are considering new ways to spur development and that could include changing the way downtown property owners are taxed.

It's time for the city of Albany to take business into its own hands. That's what the city's Assistant Manager says is needed to get downtown back to business. 

Downtown Albany during lunch time. A person or two here or there. Some people come for lunch.

"Specifically for the good meal, coming into this area. I work close to Phoebe and this is fairly convenient to come this far," says shopper Margaret Brannan.

But there aren't as many people like her as businesses would like. "Sometimes, it would help if it was a little better," says Shinault's Boutique manager Jacquelyn Harrold.

City leaders say it's time to make some changes. "We have relied on other people and other agencies to develop downtown. As a city, it's our community. We have to take the responsibility of leading the way," says Assistant City Manager James Taylor.

He wants the city to look at several options. One is to consider creating a Community Business Development District. The city would set up the district boundaries. If a majority of property owners there agree, they would pay higher property taxes that would be used to bring more services to that specific area.

"They can get additional street cleaning, security, police work. It will also assist event development and bringing activity and events downtown that will help businesses thrive, survive, and become more vibrant."

Another option is creating a Tax Allocation District where there is NO tax increase but any new revenue would be spent only in the district.

"You set the tax base where it is, freeze it, people don't pay anymore taxes but as you grow, if I add a new building, that building is now added to the tax base. The city won't get that money, that money will go into development, planning, opportunities to bring additional business downtown."

Taylor also suggests creating residences for people to live downtown to encourage more businesses to open up.

Harold, whose business has been downtown for 10 years, just plans to keep doing what she's always done. "You have to treat people right and you'll get somewhere that way."  

Taylor says areas in Columbus and Atlanta created special downtown tax districts that helped bring new development to those areas.

City leaders have NOT made any concrete decisions on these ideas yet. City manager Alfred Lott hopes to have the city's strategic plan in place by January to look at changes the city wants to adopt over the next five years.

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