Those attending the meeting included Fort Oglethorpe manager Ron Goulart, city council member Eddie Stinnett, 6th Cavalry Museum director Chris McKeever, Fort Oglethorpe code enforcement officer Jill Lacy, Carolyn Coburn and Julie Meadows with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, and Leamon Scott and Patrick Vickers with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
To meet the requirements for an Opportunity Zone designation, the LaFayette Road corridor must be shown to be in decline or distress and in need of urban redevelopment, Coburn and Meadows explained. Once an area is designated as an Opportunity Zone, then new and existing businesses located in the zone can receive up to $3,500 a year per job in state tax credits for creating two or more full-time jobs, Coburn said.
“The Opportunity Zone is a 10-year window,” McKeever said.
Businesses eligible for Opportunity Zone tax credits could receive them for a maximum of 10 years if they are located in the redevelopment area when the zone is designated. The 10-year period would begin on the date of designation or the date the urban redevelopment plan is adopted, whichever comes first, Vickers said.
Coburn said the first step toward an Opportunity Zone designation is to define the boundaries for the redevelopment area. The second step, she said, is to collect a hefty list of data over the next four to six months to support the “slum and blight” definition.
“Let’s just say (data collection) will be done by mid-June, but we’ll try to have it done before,” Coburn said. A completed master plan must be submitted to the state by Aug. 31.
The city council would vote to approve any specified areas for the Opportunity Zone, Coburn said. Vickers said the area tagged for redevelopment need not be contiguous. Lacy said council members may want time to research the sections of town proposed for redevelopment, and may want to add certain properties to the Opportunity Zone area. She was tasked with acquiring maps for the proposed zone boundaries. The group discussed including all of LaFayette Road in the Opportunity Zone area, beginning at the military park and stretching north to Cloud Springs Road and eastward down Battlefield Parkway just past Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. Stinnett said there are larger industrial properties behind mom-and-pop stores along LaFayette Road that are standing empty. An Opportunity Zone designation would entice commercial investors to bring businesses, and jobs, to Fort Oglethorpe, he said. Goulart cautioned any non-contiguous areas included in the redevelopment plan must still be within city limits.
Meadows handed out a list of data needed to show the state why LaFayette Road should be redeveloped and how it meets the “slum and blight” definition. The statistics collected would include county or area-wide data and parcel-level data, she said. Meadows and Coburn said photographs and stories would be included in the redevelopment plan application.
Data should include poverty, unemployment, crime and tax delinquency rates, the number of children receiving free school lunches, the number of residents on food stamps, the percent of renters versus property owners, property distress statistics, infrastructure age and newspaper articles that describe the area’s condition. Parcel data should include acreage, zoning, land use, assessed value, occupational tax history, building permit history, ownership and occupancy histories, code enforcement actions and other statistics to show a property’s impact on health, safety, welfare and economic development.
“This is pretty much the outline of the plan,” Meadows said.
The redevelopment plan also should include land use objectives, a description of land parcels to be acquired, structures to be demolished or rehabilitated, a workable plan for leveraging private resources to redevelop the area, a strategy for relocating any displaced residents, and public infrastructure to be provided to support the areas redevelopment. Public infrastructure could include transportation, water, sewer, sidewalks, lighting, streetscapes, public recreational space and parking, according to Georgia’s urban redevelopment act.
Goulart said he could routinely update the council on the Opportunity Zone designation process. Coburn plans to brief the city council about developing a redevelopment plan when the council meets at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23.
The DCA office of downtown development presented design concepts for the LaFayette Road renovation project immediately following the Opportunity Zone work session on Jan. 18. Fort Oglethorpe formed a Refresh Committee last year to develop a plan for renovating LaFayette Road.