Georgia’s oldest community improvement district wants to expand its boundaries and raise taxes on businesses in order to help revitalize a struggling stretch of Cobb County road.
The Cumberland Community Improvement District is seeking to add 52 commercial properties along Powers Ferry Road to its roster in order to generate an additional $135,000 per year. The money, collected through a self-imposed tax on businesses in the district, would be a fraction of the $5.4 million the CID collects annually, but it could fund a variety of improvements along the road, from transportation to landscaping.
Supporters say joining the CID could help pay for projects the county couldn’t afford. However, some business owners along the corridor are skeptical of signing up for a tax increase.
“If I felt the renovations would truly be an improvement for the area and would improve the dynamics here then, yes, I would be willing to pay for it,” said Dr. Lee Izen, owner of Terrell Mill Animal Hospital. “If it is window dressing and the impact minimal … if it’s trees to shade people while they’re waiting for the bus stop, then that would not affect businesses.”
The planned expansion would include the stretch of Powers Ferry between Delk and Terrell Mill roads, where Izen’s hospital has been located since 1976. Over the past 30 years, he’s seen the dynamics change: The building of a lot of new apartments led to higher vacancy rates. And, he said, businesses that drew families and weekend traffic moved to other areas.
The CID is in the early stages of the planned expansion, and it’s not yet known what specific improvements would be funded. In order for the expansion to be approved, 51 percent of the property owners representing at least 75 percent of the property value within the proposed area must agree to pay an additional 5 mills of property taxes. The CID board and the Cobb County Commission then would vote on the proposal.
If the expansion passes, all businesses in the area — even those who voted against it — will be forced to pay the tax increase.
In its current form, the Cumberland CID covers about 5.5 square miles, including Cumberland Mall and the I-75/I-285 interchange. CID money has been combined with public grants and tax dollars to fund high-profile projects such as the Cumberland Boulevard loop and the Cobb Parkway bridge widening.
Cumberland isn’t the only metro area district with an eye on expansion. In May, the Gwinnett County Commission approved the addition of 30 parcels to the existing 14-square-mile Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, which will add about $45,000 per year in revenue for the organization, which helps fund infrastructure improvements and provide security for businesses in the I-85 corridor in the southwest portion of the county.
Metro Atlanta is home to more than a dozen CIDs, which have little oversight but offer a way to fill in the gaps left by cash-strapped counties.
Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the Cumberland area, asked the CID if it would consider expanding its boundaries to improve the aesthetics and landscaping seen by drivers traveling into the eastern part of the county.
“The expansion will allow for a more uniform look and feel,” he said. “It will allow for improvements the county may not have otherwise been able to afford.”
Mark Houston, owner of the Fast Trac car wash on Powers Ferry, said he’s seen the benefits from CIDs in other parts of the county. But he just opened his business in December and isn’t interested in taking on a tax increase.
“I’m not interested in participating at this time, but do support the thought,” he said. “I’m generally opposed to higher taxes; I think everyone is. But the area does need assistance, no doubt about it.”
Staff writer Dan Klepal contributed to this article.