Rockdale County proposes opportunity zone for redevelopment

CONYERS -- Rockdale County planners unveiled a proposed opportunity zone for a mostly industrial area west of Conyers as a effort to encourage economic development.

The 1,909-acre urban development area runs from the Conyers city limits west along Rockdale Industrial Boulevard to the DeKalb County line and takes in property along Plunkett, Sigman and Lester roads to the north and along Iris Drive to the south.

Marshall Walker, Rockdale County planning and zoning director, explained to the Board of Commissioners during Tuesday night's work session that the effort is designed to redevelop an old part of the county with tax credit incentives available for new jobs created in the area.

"This is an area that is going to become more and more vital to the county in terms of business development, and as we move forward, this is an area that will first be transportation-oriented with the light rail coming this way," Walker said. "A lot of these buildings are older and are in need of some redevelopment of an infusion of new ideas."

The commissioners are considering a resolution to move forward with the redevelopment area. The county is partnering with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs on the project. The commissioners will take up the matter during their next regular meeting on Tuesday.

Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden voiced his support of the redevelopment area.

"We've been talking with ARC (Atlanta Regional Commission) and DCA on this, and we see this as a huge opportunity for this depressed community," Oden said. "It's an opportunity to get federal grant dollars and a good opportunity to increase and improve our tax base."

Walker said there are no plans to implement new zoning laws or overlays. The area is primarily industrial with some residential and commercial land. The goal is to attract economic growth from existing businesses and potential new business.

If approved, a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, with time and location to be determined. The BOC would then consider public comment and take action on the final urban redevelopment plan next month. Opportunity zone designation could be finalized by December.

The county's opportunity zone would operate under the same rules as the city of Conyers' opportunity zone, which is currently going through the public hearing process for a 141-acre tract running from West Avenue and Ga. Highway 138 and between Green Street and Dogwood Drive.

Walker said opportunity zones are becoming more common, especially in the metro Atlanta area, as jurisdictions compete for new development.

"Quite a few jurisdictions have them already. To not have one now is becoming more and more a competitive disadvantage for the county," Walker said.