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Apartment developer defends project’s bonds
by Everett Catts
February 05, 2014 03:26 PM | 3119 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The developer of one of the two Buckhead apartment projects whose issuance of bonds was questioned by an ethics watchdog defended the development, saying it followed the rules in getting the bonds.

In December SkyHouse of Buckhead, one of the projects, went before the Development Authority of Fulton County and was approved for $71.5 million in bonds, which include a tax break. Buckhead resident Bill Bozarth, former executive director of ethics watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, attended the hearing and objected to the development getting bonds.

The project is a joint venture between the Midtown-based Novare Group and the southeast Cobb County-based Batson-Cook Development Co. In an email, Novare President Jim Borders said the project, which will cost $72 million, have 362 units and open in early 2015, deserved the bonds. He thanked the authority for putting the building “on the tax digest, which will directly benefit the residents of the city of Atlanta, Fulton County and the public school system.”

“The show of confidence drives new development, puts people back to work and helps ensure our community remains competitive with other international cities,” Borders said. “SkyHouse Buckhead will create more than 600 temporary and permanent jobs. Like other SkyHouses around the southeastern U.S., it is in close proximity to public transportation and offers next-generation professionals an opportunity to live in one of the most dynamic places in the country, Buckhead, while keeping rents in check. Without the Fulton County Development Authority, this would not be possible.”

Borders said the project does not have to create as many low-income housing units as Bozarth argued it should, adding he would have applied for bonds with a housing authority if that were the case.

“The Development Authority of Fulton County may wish to speak to the issue,” Borders said, “but the pure economics of the transactions cause dramatic increases to the property tax base on a very small parcel, create hundreds of construction jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales taxes on the materials used in construction, hundreds of thousands of dollars in impact fees and building permit fees for the city of Atlanta and decades of sales taxes on the expenditures in city of Atlanta and Fulton County by the residents.”

He also said SkyHouse Buckhead will provide ample tax revenue to the city, county and school system.

“Our project will ultimately create property taxes alone of over $1.5 million per year to the city of Atlanta, Fulton County and the Atlanta Public Schools on a parcel that is approximately 1.7 acres in size and producing less than $100,000 per year in property taxes today,” Borders said. “And due to the high-rise nature of the project, there will likely be no school-age children who live there, providing a cost-free revenue boost for our public schools.

“The fact that the Development Authority of Fulton County has devised such a program to encourage projects like ours is a testament to their insightful business acumen and farsighted policy wisdom. Our and others’ use of the program is highly ethical and beneficial to Fulton County, the city of Atlanta and the single-family homeowner property taxpayers of Fulton County, who ultimately will see their tax bills reduced due to these projects’ revenues.”

The other developer of a Buckhead apartment project whose issuance of bonds was questioned by Bozarth is Dallas, Texas-based JLB Partners, which built Elle of Buckhead. It received $62 million in bonds from the authority in August after being denied bonds by Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, in 2011 and opening the following year. Bill Anderson, a representative of JLB Partners, did not return a message late last week seeking comment on that project.

Click here for a related article: Ethics watchdog cries foul on apartments getting bonds.

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