Last month, the City of Chamblee adopted a revised development incentive strategy and policy to provide decision-making guidelines for the consideration of future development incentives and provide clarity on the types of projects the City holds as the primary focus for economic development activity in the downtown area. Additionally, adjustments were made to incentives for new jobs so that the structure of those incentives would be more consistent with incentives offered at the State level.
The Chamblee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) mission is to promote, preserve, and enhance a safe and economically viable central business district in the City of Chamblee. These goals are facilitated by the creation of various programs, both public and private, that encourage redevelopment, growth, and employment opportunities within the district.
According to City documents, the first tax incentive project was approved in 2014 for The Olmsted (now known as The Oliver). This mixed-use development has catalyzed several other “halo effect” projects that significantly expanded both residential, mixed-use options and the tax digest within the City of Chamblee. Since the initial tax incentive for that project, three additional tax incentive projects have been completed. Each project has acted as either a catalyst project to encourage the development of under-developed properties or has created a significant number of job opportunities in the community.
Based on the revised strategy, projects seeking a tax abatement as a development incentive must fulfill the following requirements:
- Must be located in the City of Chamblee DDA Boundaries
- Completion of an application
- Fiscal impact study
- Project pro format
- Meet eligibility standards under Georgia law governing DDAs
- DDA board approval of the Bonds for Title transaction
- Feasible for implementation
- Comply with applicable ordinances
- Comply with existing local and regional planning
- Enter Notice of Intent to File.
In addition to these requirements, proposed priority considerations included in the policy are:
- Creation of Jobs
- Housing Diversity
- Public Infrastructure Investment
- Historic Preservation
- New Concepts or Catalyst Projects
- Environmental Conditions, and Sustainability.
The strategy now includes that affordable residential units be set aside for tenants at 40% of the Average Median Income (AMI) at a minimum of 5%. Projects may also achieve affordable housing set-asides for residents at 60% and/or 80% of AMI as initially proposed in the former strategy document. The policy also articulates that tenants of affordable units whose income increases to exceed the currently applicable income limit will be permitted to remain in their units at the reduced rate for the remainder of the lease or up to 3 months.
Additionally, the policy now outlines that while the DDA intends to require affordable housing set aside for all incentivized projects with a residential component, exceptions to this requirement could be granted for projects with:
- Public infrastructure investment, such as traffic improvements, pedestrian improvements, and/or parks, which exceed the minimum requirements as set by the City’s Unified Development Ordinance and exceeds 3% of hard project costs
- Costs incurred related to the environmental remediation of the site that exceeds 5% of hard project costs
- Creation or retention of at least 100 new jobs with at least 50% of those jobs exceeding the DeKalb County average wage.
The policy now clarifies that developers must enter a Notice of Intent to File that clearly states the level of and reason for the requested abatement. This process must occur before completing the Development of Community Impact (DCI) process or at least 90 days before applying for the incentive.
A catalyst project eligible for development incentive application is now defined as a significant project in a relatively unproven area of town expected to have a multiplier effect by spurring further economic development projects. Proof-of-concept projects are defined as unlike any developments within 2,000 ft and demonstrate that a business/development concept will be successful in the area.
Finally, the policy reflects updated values for job creation development incentives that now mirror the Georgia Business Expansion and Support Act’s Job Credit Program. The initially drafted policy proposed creating 50 jobs in a target industry with a base incentive of $1,250.