The city of Springfield could have an ordinance for its downtown development authority ready in about three months, City Manager Brett Bennett said.
City council members held a workshop last Tuesday on what having a DDA means — and on what it can achieve for the city, getting pointers from Allen Muldrew.
Muldrew, the executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, outlined how that city has approached a DDA and what it does there. Muldrew said the makeup and involvement of the board is critical.
“Your board should maybe reflect what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Said Bennett: “It’s important to get the right people on the board.”
Should the city enact a DDA, the group will create its own by-laws but it cannot create its own funding. The DSDA is separate from the Statesboro city government, Muldrew explained, “but that is not a bad thing.”
However, if the city council members are not happy with the DSDA, they can cut off funding, Muldrew added. He tries to take each council member out once a year to look at what the authority is doing, “so they’re not caught off-guard,” he said.
“I don’t do a project I don’t have approval from council on,” Muldrew said.
The DSDA is different in how it operates from a potential Springfield DDA — Statesboro’s was formed through a constitutional amendment, and Springfield likely will create its through a local ordinance.
Muldrew said a DDA can do a multitude for a city, depending on what the city wants.
“The potential is there,” Bennett said.
In visiting other cities with DDAs, Muldrew said each one with a success story had a TAD, or tax allocation district. Under the TAD, any increase in tax proceeds from that defined area is reserved for improvements in that district.
The city has to identify the land to be included in a TAD, but the state mandates the area be considered either a slum or in blight. The city then will call for a referendum to approve the TAD and flat lines the tax base in that area, Muldrew said.
“You have tools you can use in that TAD,” he said. “You can clear land. You can do sidewalks, streets, so any improvements that go in, that tax base goes up.”
But the TAD only applies to the city’s property tax intake. The other taxing authorities have to agree to it, Muldrew said.
“Have a little foresight and see that you are investing,” he said. “Draw your lines carefully and make sure everyone is on board.”
Council members also have weighed the composition of a DDA. It likely will include residents of the area under the DDA and residents who live in the county but have a business interest in the DDA’s boundaries. Council members also have discussed what part of the city to include inside the DDA’s lines.
Muldrew said Statesboro’s purchase of the old Jaeckel Hotel, which was turned into Statesboro City Hall, was a “game-changer” for downtown development. He commended Springfield for its efforts on the Mars Theatre.
“I’m convinced your theater is driving traffic you normally would not get,” he said. “I think y’all did a great job with the theater. That’s that quality of life piece people are looking for.
“I’m a big fan of Springfield,” Muldrew said. “Y’all have done a great job.”