By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - In her State of the City Address, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says the state of the city is strong, but it can be better and stronger.
She revealed her three-prong plan for the city, which focuses around redeveloping Columbus' most run-down areas.
"These are places where the legitimate market is broken, and the illegitimate market of crime is to common," Tomlinson says.
In her address, Tomlinson pointed out 35% of Columbus' land sits blighted or underutilized.
"Citizens ask me, why are there no movie theaters in South Columbus? Why isn't there a grocery store near me? Well the very simple reason is there aren't enough rooftops and therefore there isn't enough income levels and the growth is somewhere else," Tomlinson says.
Tomlinson believes her three-prong plan will stimulate business growth and economic development in those areas.
The first step, adopting envelopment powers under Georgia law.
"It's where you go into a blighted area, a lot of vacant and abandoned prosperities, they issue the bonds which really helps with the financing aspect of the developments and encourages investment where it normally wouldn't have taken root," Tomlinson says.
This plays into the plan's second prong: developing urban service districts. City Council would have the power to lower the tax rate for a particular project in a blighted area for a limited time.
"When businesses come into the area, it brings additional people into the area which brings more people and more buildings and an influx of personnel," Councilman Pops Barnes says.
The last component of Tomlinson's plan is sunsetting the property tax freeze.
"The tax mechanism, conceived some 30 years ago, is fatally flawed," she says.
The Mayor proposes those who have the tax freeze will keep it, but all new transfers will vest in a new tax system that increases the current Homestead Exemption to $20,000.
"It encourages a military influx of people who are buying over in Phenix City rather than Columbus and it's an economic incentive as well," Barnes says.
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