Thursday, July 28, 2016

(UPDATED) Will Dunwoody Finance New Commercial Development in the Perimeter? Find out Tonight, July 28.

There is a special called meeting of the Development Authority tonight, July 28, 2016.

The backstory:
Transwestern wants to build an office building on a parcel of Perimeter Mall's parking lot that was purchased earlier this year.  They went to great effort and expense, per an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, to purchase this property.  They went to great efforts to design a building that will connect via skybridge to both Perimeter Mall and the Dunwoody MARTA parking lot.  There were a few minor requests for SLUPs to allow encroachments and parking allowances to make the plan work.  But at the same time, Transwestern had 1) no tenants lined up and 2) a plan for a tax abatement so that the city would "encourage" their completion of the project.

Here's DWG's take on the presentation from June:

Tonight, Transwestern is going in front of the Development Authority with a different plan.  According to the documents associated with tonight's meeting, Transwestern proposes to have Dunwoody fund the construction via municipal bonds, then lease the building back to them.  The City of Dunwoody would become Transwestern's landlord.

UPDATE:  Joe Seconder contacted Economic Development director Mike Starling and received the following response:

I would like to clear a misunderstanding concerning the Development Authority. The City does not borrow money nor does it provide any City Credit towards these “Bond” transactions. These are private placement bonds that are financed totally by the developer. The Development Authority provides a lease back to the developer in order to provide tax incentives for projects. I would be happy to sit down with you to explain how this process works.
So we're back to the original proposal - a tax break for a company building a speculative office-space project in Dunwoody.  My smell test has not improved.  There are still questions that have yet to be answered.

Here's what the Dunwoody citizen needs to consider:

1)  There has been no public discussion beyond the DHA meeting in June.  So the request for municipal bonds is a bolt out of the blue.
2)  Do we, the citizens, want our government to use our city's bond rating to finance commercial development, not to redevelop "blighted" or "run down" parts of the city but to build in the most sought-after real estate in the southeast?  Do we want to issue tax abatements for speculative projects that developers want to get engaged in, until it's time for the tax bill?
3)  If the answer to #2 is "yes", what minimum basic requirements should there be for a developer to avail themselves of this process?  Guaranteed tenants perhaps?  Or a national brand or headquarters?
4)  What are the long-term consequences, both pro and con, to Dunwoody's government getting into the "landlord" business tax abatement upon request?

And finally - the elephant in the room:  is this resolution the reason why Denny Shortal does not want members of the DHA discussing new development?

Please note:  there will be no public comment before the vote!  Public comment will only be accepted at the end of the meeting.  If you have an opinion on this matter, communicate it to the Development Authority and our government representatives NOW! 

Dunwoody Development Authority:

Mayor and City Council:

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