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Mayors want better communication with development authority
by Nicole Dow
August 21, 2013 11:38 AM | 1460 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
North Fulton mayors want to improve communication between the Development Authority of Fulton County and north Fulton cities. The authority recently extended a tax abatement to Avalon, a $600 million mixed-use project being built in Alpharetta. Mayor David Belle Isle said he and other city officials did not know about the deal until it was covered in the news. Belle Isle said even if the cities do not have to sign off on the authority’s decisions, there should be a level of communication at the very least so that the respective city council might have input on the decision.

“We’ve made a lot of decisions in respect to Avalon,” he said. The same decisions may have been made regardless, Belle Isle said, but they were made based on revenue assumptions from Avalon without factoring in the tax abatement. Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said the authority should contact mayors whenever there are development deals in their cities. Galambos said Sandy Springs experienced a similar situation in which the authority did not communicate with the city about dealings affecting Sandy Springs.

District 3 Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who was present at the North Fulton Municipal Association meeting last week when the topic was discussed, said the authority has experienced staff changes which affected their normal communication process.

“Not only had they had staff changes, but they had also a lull in projects outside of Atlanta and so their normal process of communication just didn’t happen,” she said.

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker proposed the north Fulton mayors draft a memorandum of understanding to clearly lay out what the north Fulton city leaders expect from the authority.

“I think it really comes down to communication,” Bodker said. “It’s in their best interest to have cooperative relationships with the cities. I think once we spell out what the ground rules are it will naturally become more cooperative.” Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said, “What we’re looking for is a structural change which will survive. If you reach an understanding with an individual and the individual leaves, you’ve lost your position.” Wood also said he thinks it would be good to have someone on the development authority with loyalty to north Fulton mayors. Hausmann told the mayors she did not think the memorandum of understanding would change the outcome, since the authority is an autonomous group and is not obligated to run their decisions by city mayors. Galambos said it may not change their rules but it might change their behavior and get them to communicate better with the cities.
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