DDA preps for feasibility study by Dept. of Community Affairs
By Stephanie Johns
BoomTown and Christmas lights were the main talking points during the recent Downtown Development Authority (DDA) meeting.
BoomTown, a program by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, more formally called Building Opportunity on Main Street Job Creation, will conduct a feasibility study of the downtown area when they visit Oct. 29-31.
Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan said that they have secured permission from three property owners, and that DDA Vice Chairman James Paschal has agreed to get the permission of at least one more property owner.
Callahan later explained that the DDA is tasked with securing ‘test sites’ for the study. She added that the purpose of the study is to consider repurposing buildings and whether or not repurposings are financially feasible.
She stressed that the DDA shares the studies with the property owners. It is then up to the property owners to decide whether or not they want to act on it. These will not be DDA projects.
Once the feasibility study has been completed, the DDA will share it with board members and with the general public.
DDA Board Member Clifton Hanes asked about Christmas lights, noting that downtown looked “snaggletoothed” during the holidays because some business put up lights and some did not.
Main Street Director Ann Huff agreed that not having some businesses with lights and some businesses without lights does make a difference.
“Do it all the way or don’t do it,” she said. “It’s a unified look that we’re going for.”
Huff explained that businesses had to pay to have the lights put up, but that if the business took them down to have their property painted or if strong winds blew down the lights, they might decide not to pay to have them put back up.
Huff said they could do an inventory of which buildings were missing lights.
DDA Board Chairwoman Shandon Land asked if there was any fund to subsidize the light installation. Callahan said it might be possible to fund a micro-grant. Huff suggested businesses wanting assistance with the cost of putting up the lights might apply and be granted based on need.
The city pays around $4,000 each year to maintain the lights, according to Callahan.
As to other holiday decorations, those will go up the Monday following Thanksgiving, according to Huff.
In other DDA news:
• Land shared that Madison has been chosen to participate in the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Georgia Ramble, a tour of homes in which participants ‘ramble’ about, in Oct. 2013. Jane Royal and Chris Lambert will chair that committee.
• Regarding the DDA’s Town Park construction project, Callahan said the DDA has a one-purpose account that they use when they are doing construction.
At this time, all bills pertaining to the Town Park construction project have been paid. Money remaining in the construction account – approximately $20,000 – will be used to pay down the DDA’s construction line of credit.
• Callahan said that Everett Royal of the DDA has indicated that the loan that the DDA wanted to secure is available. As he was not present at the meeting, Callahan shared his findings and said that Royal assured her that a lending package was available.
Callahan later explained that the lending package or loan will be used to reimburse the city in the amount of $150,000 for the Gilmore property condemnation parcel. She noted that the property owners had already been paid.
The condemnation of the blue house is considered a “friendly condemnation” in that the most recent property owners were the ones to request that the property be condemned. An “aggressive condemnation” would be one in which the property owners have their property taken for public use and are reimbursed at fair market value for the property.
City Manager David Nunn has informed Callahan that the next step in the process is for the DDA to secure the loan to reimburse the city and to make a formal request for the transfer of the property. The DDA will then get the letter to Nunn’s office as he’s waiting on receipt of the letter to proceed.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition