ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

heavy-rain-night
58°
Showers
H -° L 53°
  • heavy-rain-night
    58°
    Current Conditions
    Showers. H -° L 53°
  • rain-day
    Today
    Showers. H -° L 53°
  • cloudy-day
    63°
    Tomorrow
    Mostly Cloudy. H 63° L 47°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local Education
Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 
Close

Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 

Channel 2's Richard Belcher reports.

Atlanta school board to meet Friday on Gulch deal 

The Atlanta school board is considering a resolution that will attempt to restrict further use of school taxes to fund redevelopment on the city's Westside, including the massive Gulch project.

The board has called a special meeting at 8 a.m. Friday to vote on a resolution that would require written approval before school property tax dollars can be used to fund future development in an area known as the Westside Tax Allocation District or TAD. The vote comes just days before a Fulton County Superior Court hearing that is required before the first set of bonds for Gulch redevelopment can be issued.

Three bond lawyers who were unable to comment on the record because of client conflicts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it’s unclear what the resolution would accomplish. Atlanta Public Schools agreed in 1998 and again in 2005 to forego future tax dollars within the district until 2038 to help fund redevelopment.

MORE ON PROPOSED GULCH REDEVELOPMENT

The Gulch deal is backed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and was approved last month by the Atlanta City Council. Future school taxes from the Westside TAD could be over $300 million of a public financing package that could rise as high as $1.9 billion for the downtown mini-city, which will stretch from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the Five Points MARTA station. The proposed $5 billion Gulch development would bring a mix of apartments, office towers, hotels and retail stores to a 40-acre swath of parking lots and rail lines.

Since 1999, APS has contributed hundreds of millions of school tax dollars to support development projects included in five TADs, areas where property tax collections are frozen for a period of time. Future increases in tax collections from rising property values as the area redevelops are used to help pay for development.

In theory, after the TAD expires, the participating government bodies such as school systems reap the financial benefit of new, higher property values.

But current APS board members, who were not in office when the Westside TAD was created, are concerned about diverting tax dollars that could help students. For at least the last year some school leaders have said they want to renegotiate the terms of the TADs in which the district participates.

School board Chairman Jason Esteves said the board has not had a big voice in the Gulch deal and wants APS to be part of the process.

“We want to resolve outstanding issues that we have with the five TADs that APS participates in before having a conversation about the Gulch or any other economic development project,” he said.

Esteves said the board’s action isn’t to oppose the Gulch but instead to ensure “everyone is being good stewards” of school taxes.

APS spokesman Ian Smith declined to answer questions about potential legal action or what the district’s next steps might be. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who was not in office when the TADs were approved, declined an interview request through Smith.

A statement issued by the school district said, in part: “The resolution is intended to encourage ongoing collaboration with the city in hopes of reaching a resolution that will balance the board’s educational mission with the interest of economic development.”

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT: ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION RESOLUTION

Bottoms’ office interpreted the resolution as the school system’s intent to withdraw from the TAD, calling it “disappointing” after the city has worked with the schools, the state and Fulton County to revitalize the Gulch.

“The opportunity to leverage combined state and local resources to benefit Atlanta’s citizens has not been seen on this scale in this generation,” the statement said. “The city has relied on the written commitments from the board of education, as expressed in their prior official actions as to their commitment to the redevelopment of the Westside. The city is determined to continue its efforts to be a good and responsible partner to see this part of downtown prosper and is optimistic that APS will join in this effort as well.”

The Friday school board meeting comes before an expected hearing Monday before a judge to “validate” bonds to be used to help start development of the Gulch property. Under Georgia law, a validation hearing is required before a governmental entity can issue bonds. It’s typically a routine matter in which a judge assures investors who would purchase the bonds that the debt issued by the government agency is legal and binding.

But in recent years, taxpayers and other groups have attempted to challenge bonds for major projects, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park, though those objections have failed.

APS, as a participant in the TAD, might have standing to contest the bond validation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)
Close

School vote would raise questions about Gulch deal

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen, speaks with reporters during a meeting at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017. (CASEY SYKES, CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)

On Nov. 5, the City Council approved a complex financing package allowing California-based developer CIM Group to use future sales and property taxes generated within the Gulch to help fund the project. The proposal drew significant opposition from the public during council meetings, and the city revised the proposed public financing package after Carstarphen and council members expressed concerns about the deal. The amendments, CIM and the city said, would allow council to move forward and not require approvals by the school system or Fulton, which also contributes property taxes to the TAD.

“The school board has not formally consented to the Gulch TAD but has directed the superintendent to negotiate with the city as to future use of the education taxes for redevelopment purposes in the Westside TAD,” the school board’s proposed resolution states.

The language also notes various financial pressures the district faces, including a school property-tax millage rollback approved by the board that will cost the district $25 million a year, and the passage by voters in November of a measure that provided school tax relief to some homeowners.

This isn’t the first time APS and the city have tussled over the use of school taxes for development projects. Talks between the school district and former Mayor Kasim Reed turned testy over the Beltline TAD. The school system was supposed to get a portion of its tax money returned to it in payments.

But because of financial hardship, in 2016, the two sides agreed to a new deal that called for Atlanta to pay back less money than previously agreed upon. At the time, a school official heralded the conclusion of that conflict as a signal of a “renewed partnership” with the city.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during the Stacey Abrams election night watch party at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Close

School vote would raise questions about Gulch deal

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during the Stacey Abrams election night watch party at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

During the 2017 mayoral campaign, Bottoms said she’d be willing to renegotiate the TADs that APS participates in. The school district is part of, and the largest contributor to, five TADs, which have collected almost $434 million in school taxes from 1999 through June 30. Nearly $100 million of those school taxes have gone into the Westside TAD, the oldest of the five.

APS wanted the Eastside TAD closed as part of its terms for signing on to the Gulch deal, according to text messages between Bottoms and Carstarphen that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained in June.

CIM did not make an executive available for an interview.

In a statement, the company said, “We believe the development of the Gulch will be great for Atlanta’s economy. By rebuilding this former industrial portion of downtown it will create jobs, connect communities, and generate future tax revenues.”

Under the plan, CIM would buy the bonds initially and recoup its investment from future tax revenue created by the development.

“CIM, its partners, and co-investors will be the sole initial purchaser of the bonds and will assume all of the bond repayment risks,” the statement said.

THE STORY SO FAR 

  • The Atlanta City Council in November approved a public financing package for developer CIM Group to revitalize the Gulch, a 40-acre tangle of parking lots and rail lines between the Five Points MARTA station and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • The council agreed to a package of up to $1.9 billion to support a $5 billion project to build a mix of offices, apartments, hotels and retail.

Read More

News

  • Annie Berry turned 105 on Jan. 18, and Thursday she got to experience the thrill of holding her great-great-granddaughter, WUSA reported. >> Read more trending news  Five generations of Berry’s family gathered at the Genesis Larkin Chase Center in Bowie, Maryland, to watch their matriarch hold 1-week-old Olivia, the television station reported. “I think she’s cute like Grandmama,” Berry told WUSA, winking and laughing as the baby cried. Berry was born in Meridian Mississippi in 1914 and recalled picking cotton, shucking corn and milking cows. “She said before I leave this earth we will see a black president,” Berry’s granddaughter, Annie Sewell, told the television station. “I didn’t think it, but it came to pass.” Berry migrated to North Carolina where she worked as a caretaker. She got married and worked as an administrator for a school system before retiring and moving to the Washington, D.C., area to live with family members, WUSA reported. Berry told the television station that her longevity is due to 'obedience to the Lord.”
  • A Florida man was killed Friday when the motorcycle he was driving on an interstate highway clipped a motorcycle in front of him, sending him over a concrete barrier and 100 feet to his death, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. >> Read more trending news  The FHP is calling the incident a hit-and-run accident, according to several media outlets. According to state troopers, the two motorcycles were headed east on I-4 in Tampa about 3:30 p.m. when they collided. After impact, the motorcycle driven by Eric Lee Jordan, 35, hit the south shoulder barrier wall on an overpass, WTSP reported. The impact ejected Jordan from his motorcycle and over the wall, and he fell to the road beneath the interstate, the television station reported. The other motorcyclist and his passenger, Amy Jones, 30, of Dover, were in front of Jordan and stopped, WFLA reported. However, state troopers said the driver fled, leaving Jones at the scene, WTVT reported. Jordan was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries, WFLA reported. The driver who left Jones is described as a white male and possibly named “A.J.,' WTSP reported. He was driving a black motorcycle, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FHP at 813-558-1800 or by dialing *347.
  • Union County sheriff’s detectives were staking out an area Thursday near Wesley Chapel, North Carolina, when they saw two males leave a red vehicle. >> Read more trending news The suspicious people put on ski masks and hoodies and kicked in the front door of a residence. Detectives 'noticed they started putting on ski masks covering their faces putting hoodies on their heads, then they made their way toward the house and kicked the front door in,' said Tony Underwood with the Union County Sheriff’s Office. Patrol officers were called in and after a short time, the intruders left the house carrying a bag and got back into a vehicle where a driver was waiting. Authorities stopped the vehicle near Goldmine Road and Corporate Center Road. 'I heard sirens, and I saw a lot of Sheriff's Office deputies driving really fast down the street,' neighbor Shannon Skiscin said. Two of the suspects were taken into custody and the third fled on foot but was apprehended a short time later. Inside the vehicle, authorities found a 9 mm handgun, Taser, cellphones, ski masks and about 1,100 Xanax bars. The three suspects were Gabriel Alexander Oyuch, 20, of Matthews, Jaydan Burwell, 20, of Charlotte, and Michael Lamonte Byrd, 24, of Charlotte.  'I've never (sic) known nothing to happen,” neighbor Tammy Heath said. “I've fallen asleep with my door unlocked.' Detectives then executed a search warrant for the home and found marijuana, about 200 Xanax bars, Roxicodone and more than $2,400 in cash. The two people arrested in the home were Michael Joseph Tabbit, 18, of Wesley Chapel, and Jonathan Troy Sierski, 20, who lives at the house. Oyuch was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a felony, felonious breaking and entering and possession with intent to sell and deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance.  Burwell was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a felony, felonious breaking and entering, felony larceny and possession with intent to sell and deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance.  Byrd was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a felony, felonious breaking and entering, felony larceny and possession with intent to sell and deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance.  Tabbit and Swierski also face numerous drug charges. “Outstanding police work,” Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. “Deputies were in the right place at the right time to apprehend armed criminals who boldly entered an occupied residence in the middle of the afternoon. A situation like that could have ended much differently.”  The home invasion was not a random crime, authorities said.
  • Police are searching for a man accused of stealing a car from a Midtown high-rise condominium parking garage last week. The car was stolen from the Spire condos at 860 Peachtree Street on Feb. 5, Atlanta police said in a Friday news release.  The man slipped through the side of the parking gate and began pulling on car door handles and entering vehicles, the release said. The car that was stolen was a 2009 Honda Accord, which the victim said had been left unlocked with the key inside, the release said. A 9mm Glock handgun was also inside the vehicle when it was stolen. Anyone with information on the this incident is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 404-577-8477 or online at www.StopCrimeATL.com. Tips can be sent anonymously and information that leads to an arrest and indictment in this investigation can earn tipsters up to $2,000. In other news:
  • One man was arrested after police in Florida said he allowed an underage girl to take the wheel during a trip to the store, according to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. >> Read more trending news Officials said a vehicle was observed be driven into the opposite lane and into dirt off the side of the roadway Thursday in the area of North Tropical Trail at about 6:15 p.m. Police came in contact with the vehicle, where 62-year-old Mark Papczynski said he allowed the girl to drive to the store 'to get her a snack and himself another 18 pack of beer,' according to an arrest report. Papczynski admitted that letting the girl drive was dangerous. In a post-jail interview Papczynski said, 'I was brought up in the old school, where parents always taught their children the ways of life,' in regards to the incident. He also said that 'it wasn't like she was doing it for the first time.' He faces two charges of child neglect without great bodily harm and permitting an unauthorized person to drive, according to jail records.
  • It was a busy day for Atlanta rapper 21 Savage Friday, starting with a pretaped appearance on “Good Morning America,” followed by being booked into a South Georgia jail on a felony theft by deception warrant. He was later released, according to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. >> Read more trending news The Friday legal matter is connected to a concert booking from 2016 for which a promoter paid the musician, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, $17,000, TMZ reported. The rapper kept the money but did not perform, so the promoter filed paperwork to get a warrant issued for his arrest, according to TMZ’s report. “The warrant is from some years ago, and he went through the process and addressed the issue,” Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes told the Coastal Courier newspaper in Hinesville.