TIFTON — Bruce Green, principal of Bruce Green and Associates Consulting, presented the South Tifton Redevelopment Plan to the Tifton City Council at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Green, who served as the first Main Street manager for Tifton in the 1980s, presented the executive summary of the area assessment.
The first step was defining the area that would be worked on, said Green. The initial Sept. 21, 2017 meeting about the project drew in residents from south Tifton, including Phillipsburg and Unionville.
“The city manager (Pete Pyrzenski) said the city can only do what the city has jurisdiction over, so that drew the line at 17th Street,” Green said.
The project area encompasses the old Horizon Mills site, down to Matt Wilson Elementary School, from Old Omega Road right up to Oakridge Cemetery.
Green said that his team gathered a wide variety of data, including historic conditions that existed 30 years ago and further back, current conditions and what the needs of the residents are, and began to develop a plan for rehabilitating the area.
Green highlighted what his team saw as the primary issues in the area.
“There is deterioration,” Green said. “You can do a windshield drive-through and see that. There’s disinvestment, just like there was in downtown. People just haven’t invested. Not to say that some people have not, there’s some beautiful homes down there and people have maintained their yards. But there is such a checkerboard effect of disinvestment that it affects property values, so you have declining property values. Disorganization, and by that I mean there is no singular entity that gets up every day and focuses on south Tifton like a Main Street program or development authority does. That’s one of the recognized issues. And then disassociation. For whatever reason, the larger community kind of disassociated from south Tifton.”
He said that his team looked at the historic resources in south Tifton and how there are clear discrepancies in the protection of heritage and cultural assets between north and south Tifton.
Green said that when the Tifton City Council was presented with the idea of creating a historic district in 1988, the recommendation included all of south Tifton down to 18th Street in that protective umbrella.
“That was not done in 1988,” Green said. “It was not done in 2000 and it has not subsequently been done. I can tell you that a part of the disinvestment, a part of the disorganization and a part of the deterioration is because no one has put a protective covenant over these neighborhoods.”
Green showed the council pictures of houses on north and south Park Avenue. He said that the properties on North Park Avenue have increased in value because they are protected by the Historic Preservation Commission. Houses on South Park Avenue that are almost identical in age and construction have not increased in value.
“We found out that there are lots of pieces of south Tifton that date back to the 1880s, just like around this area in downtown as well as in the north historic district,” Green said.
He said that south Tifton can be rehabilitated with community support and a dedicated project manager, much like downtown was revitalized.
“Thirty-two years ago, 40 percent of this downtown was vacant and deteriorating,” Green said. “That’s 12 city blocks vacant and deteriorated. I use these references to help you see that no matter how bad south Tifton may look in places, it can achieve the same type of economic progress and redevelopment that the rest of the town has achieved.”
He said that the first step towards that is acknowledging there are problems in the area and figure out how those problems began and grew and what some of the solutions may be.
“If you hear nothing else that I say tonight, my 35 years in this business tells me that the city, the community as a whole, must figure out a way to put some kind of oversight and management in place to do the day-to-day work that it takes to bring about this kind of redevelopment,” Green said.
Vice-mayor Wes Ehlers, who presided over the meeting in Mayor Julie Smith’s absence, said that this project will benefit not only the residents of south Tifton, but also the rest of the city.
“When you have a win-win opportunity in front of you, I think this is a no-brainer project,” he said.
Councilman Johnny Terrell said that he wants the director to be a local person and that the office should be located within the project area.
“Put the project in the community,” he said. “The director should have a sense of what he or she is directing.”
Council member Jack Folk said that while he would like for the director to be local, he wants the most qualified person to be selected.
The council voted to award the proposal for the lease of a crawler dozer to Yancy Brothers of Albany, as well as approving alcohol licenses for eight restaurants and stores.
One license application was tabled pending a hearing.
The ordinance amending the Land Development Code regarding non-conforming structures and uses was postponed to allow city attorney Rob Wilmot to make sure all of the language is correct.
Pyrzenski asked for and was granted permission to go ahead and publicly post a rezoning request for two parcels, including Captain’s Point Trailer Park.
Enterprise zone tax incentives were granted to Harper Family, LP for renovations at 131 3rd St.