Sembler Update from Commissioner Gannon
From Ashford Alliance Community Organization
"As you may be aware, Development Authorities are independent entities created by the state and The Board of Commissioners does not have any say in the decisions made by the Development Authority. There is litigation pending regarding the role of the public in some aspects of Development Authority incentives, but not this kind of transaction known as a PILOT bond. PILOT is short for "payments in lieu of taxes." In this deal, Sembler will convey to the Development Authority ownership of large portions of its mixed-use Town Brookhaven project. The Development Authority will float bonds to finish construction of the project. The Development Authority also will lease the project back to Sembler. Under this lease, Sembler will make rent payments to the Authority sufficient to repay the principal and interest on the bonds. Bond funds also could be used to refinance Sembler's existing loans for the project at a more favorable interest rate. Commissioner Gannon does not support tax incentives for this property and encourages you to attend the Development Authority meetings so that they can be aware of the public sentiment. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 18, 2009 at 8:00 AM. You may learn more about the Development Authority on the DeKalb County website at www.yourdekalb.com under Departments then Economic Development. Also, State Representative Mike Jacobs held a town hall meeting on the subject last evening."
Mike Jacobs Reports on Sembler's Proposal
Partially quoted from Mike's District 80 Website
"Thank you to everyone who responded to my e-mail message last week regarding the Sembler tax abatement proposal. I intend to reply to each of your messages personally, although that will take some time.
Most responded in opposition to the tax abatement. A handful supported it.
This is not about “standing in the way of progress,” as a couple of people characterized it. It’s about transparency and accountability in the way our county and school taxes are managed. It’s also about a very serious and real concern that throwing open the barn doors to giving property tax abatements to developers whose projects are caught in the doldrums of the real estate market ultimately will place upward pressure on the tax burden of DeKalb County citizens. ...
EUGENE WALKER’S CONFLICT OF INTEREST
I also want to clarify that I do not blame Sembler for looking after its business interests.
I do, however, believe that Gene “$18K” Walker should be made to understand the intractable conflict of interest between his dual service as Chairman of the DeKalb Development Authority and as a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education.
The public should call or e-mail every other member of the Board of Education and ask them to insist that Dr. Walker allow them to vote on whether the Sembler tax abatement will happen.
Word is spreading that CEO Burrell Ellis may insist that the Board of Commissioners be given the right to vote on the Sembler tax abatement proposal. He could make this happen because he appoints the members of the Development Authority.
Shouldn’t the Board of Education have that same right? After all, the school system could stand to lose more property tax revenues than the county if these tax abatements are allowed to go forward.
Both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners should have the right to vote on the Sembler proposal. If Dr. Walker disagrees with that, then he should have to answer to his colleagues on the Board of Education for his refusal to let them vote. He has sufficient power and influence over the affairs of the Development Authority to hold up the tax abatement until the Board of Education weighs in.
You can make that happen. Please contact the members of the Board of Education and ask them to ask Dr. Walker to let them vote.
You can find their contact information at the Board of Education Website."
In fairness, Sembler rep Jeff Fuqua has a rebuttal in the AJC Letters to the Editor today in which he states that the AJC, "created a distorted and incomplete picture of our efforts to negotiate with the DeKalb Development Authority a tax abatement for part of our Brookhaven property. Beginning with a misleading headline and using loaded words and strident and alarmist rhetoric, the story created an erroneous and extraordinarily unfair impression of our proposal that has done a great disservice to Sembler, to DeKalb and to your readers. Far from seeking a “free ride,” as your article virtually snarls, Sembler is seeking support for a project that represents a $400 million investment in DeKalb and which, even with limited development, come January 2010 will pay DeKalb over three times more in property taxes than the property paid prior to Sembler’s involvement (from $400,000 up to $1.4 million)."