Improvement Association formed for U.S. 278 corridor

COVINGTON — A group of business people with properties along U.S. Highway 278 have taken another step toward forming a community improvement district.

Property owners launched the nonprofit Highway 278 Improvement Association, elected a board of directors and established a set of bylaws at a meeting on July 16. The ultimate goal of the association is to form a CID along U.S. 278 from Exit 90 to Ga. Highway 142 at Martin’s Crossing shopping center.

Among the nonprofit association’s immediate tasks will be to “mobilize the forces needed to make a CID happen,” said Larry Kaiser, owner of Collaborative Infrastructure Services, a Conyers consulting firm working with the Improvement Association. Kaiser said the association will promote the idea of a CID to business owners in the designated area, gather consent forms from them, and work with legislators to get the enabling legislation approved in the 2015 General Assembly.

The Improvement Association’s goals, as listed on the July 16 meeting agenda, are to transition from an association to a CID; increase property owner land values through a long-term plan for the corridor; develop and implement a landscape beautification and clean-up plan and improve the physical appearance of the Exit 90 interchange, ramps and the U.S. 278 corridor; put a corridor branding theme in place that includes upgraded street and way finding signage; construct and improve sidewalks, lighting and other roadway infrastructure; and bring in outside funding that improves the business environment.

Kaiser said a CID does not take the place of government services. Instead, all of the tax money collected in the CID, and any grants that the Improvement Association receives, will be used to enhance the U.S. 278 corridor as determined by the board of directors.

In order to form a CID, at least 51 percent of the business owners controlling 75 percent of the tax digest in the designated area must agree to be taxed at a higher property tax rate. Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight has said the group is considering a 3- to 5-percent increase in its millage rate.

Kaiser said the board of directors is aiming at targets higher than 51 percent and 75 percent.

“What the board of directors indicated early on is that they want those percentages to be higher than the bare minimum,” said Kaiser. “You want as many on board as possible.”

The Covington City Council earlier this month approved $25,000 in seed money to help pay for consulting for the Improvement Association and aid in the formation of a CID.

“If the city approves and supports this, then I think more businesses will come along and these projects will be funded quicker than any government entity can,” Mayor Ronnie Johnston said at that time. “We’ll start seeing the changes quickly.”

Business owners elected to the Improvement Association board of directors are: Jimmy Tanner, Brad Oppenheimer, Billy Fortson, Denny Dobbs, Rob Fowler, Sam Hay, Ken Gaylord and Scott Knight.