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April 21, 2014

Council disagrees on DDA borders

TIFTON — At a recent city meeting, the City Council, with a 3-2 vote, approved the resolution providing the Downtown Development Authority amendment to boundaries, appointment of board members and for other purposes.

Prior to voting, City Manager Larry Riner reminded the council that they had a couple of lengthy meetings regarding the boundaries of the DDA and the actual structure of the board itself. The council was provided with a boundary map, depicting the downtown development area.

Councilman Chris Parrott made a motion to approve the resolution and Vice Mayor Johnny Terrell seconded it.

When Mayor Jamie Cater asked if there was any further discussion, Councilwoman Julie Smith said she had a discussion point.

"I still would like to see Park Avenue from the intersection of Sixth and Park down to the intersection of Fourth and Park removed from the boundary," she said. "There are 13 parcels of property in that block. Of those 13 parcels, eight are residential. It's basically 80 percent residential. That area being in my district is an area that's very much in transition. It can either shift and go to more of a business setting, it could shift and go toward a setting that's not very desirable or it could shift in a positive way."

She added, "With the majority of that block being residential, I don't see that that fits the business model. So, I would like for you to consider removing that particular block from the boundary."

Smith moved to amend the motion to exclude the block on Park Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets. Councilman Wes Ehlers seconded.

"We talked about this in length at the workshop," Cater said, adding that he didn't want to get back into the discussion.

Ehlers asked specifically about the boundary lines.

"The way the map is currently drawn, the boundary line would go from the east side of Central Avenue from Sixth Street to 12th Street, and the south side of 12th Street and the east side of Central," Riner explained.

After more discussion on the boundary line, Ehlers noted, "She's (Smith) wanting to just eliminate the houses. The rest of the boundaries are OK. It's just those houses that she's talking about."

Smith and Ehlers noted all of the current DDA members with this recommendation could still serve on the board. Smith's recommendation pertains only to saving the houses.

"When you have the majority of those on that street as residences, it just doesn't make sense to me to include that in the downtown development area, which is primarily focused on business development," she said.

"And as I said that night, most of this is rental property," Cater told Smith, noting they just have a difference in opinions.

As Cater was speaking, Smith commented, "It doesn't matter if it's owned or rented." Cater responded that he was talking and that she wouldn't like it if he interrupted her. He asked her to let him finish talking.

"I see a significance difference in somebody who owns a dwelling and has four or five different apartments in there than I do a homeowner," Cater continued. "The majority of the places there are not homeowners, they are duplexes."

"When you are a tenant, you have the right of enjoyment of property as a homeowner does. That's their residence. That's where they live," Smith said.

"That's your opinion," Cater commented.

"No, that's the law, Jamie, actually," she said. "When you're a tenant, you have the right to enjoy that property. You have a bundle of rights."

Cater then asked if they were going to vote. City attorney Rob Wilmot asked if that was the end of the discussion. Ehlers continued the discussion by asking Riner about the boundary lines, regarding Smith's request,

After Riner briefly went over what was on the map, Smith commented that she couldn't hear all of the discussion that was taking place next to her.

"And, we couldn't hear yours," Cater said.

"So, the three of them can have a discussion?," Smith asked, referring to some of the council members who were huddled together discussing. "I can't hear what they're saying."

Cater explained that Ehlers was just asking a question. Ehlers told Smith that he was explaining that "the whole current members of the DDA are still incorporated, it just saves that road."

"That's pretty much the idea of the compromise here," he said. "All of the current members of the DDA will still be able to serve as business owners within the DDA boundary. We're just trying to save this neighborhood."

"And it takes out one when you do that," Cater said. Ehlers and Smith replied that it doesn't. Ehlers said the individual Cater was referring to still has a house on Central Avenue, so he will still be incorporated as long as he owns that house. Smith added the individual has property on Ridge Avenue as well.

"So, you still get your boy on the DDA," she said.

"Did you say my boy?," Cater asked, which Smith replied yes. "That's very disrespectful."

"Jamie, I'm just…tit for tat," she commented.

"That's Mr. Byrd. He's a developer here in this community and you're calling him a boy," he said.

"He's your selection and he's still on the DDA Authority," Smith said.

Cater then said he was done with the discussion and that he wanted to keep it just like the map is drawn.

"But, we've also extended it all the way out Highway 82. There's been an awful lot of compromise. I'm asking for one block," Smith said. "It's just interesting when there's discussion about other things and consideration is given for the person representing those districts, that discussion is taken into consideration. This block, Park Avenue…I don't know how else to explain it — it could go one way or the other."

After asking if the discussion was over, Cater then called for a vote on Smith's request to amend the motion. Smith and Ehlers voted in favor, and Cater, Parrott and Terrell voted against it.

Next, the council voted on the original motion that was made by Parrott and seconded by Terrell. This motion passed with a 3-2 vote with Cater, Parrott and Terrell voting in favor, and Smith and Ehlers voting against it.

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