Supporters propose better, more representative Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative

Name of Publication: 
The Augusta Chronicle
Excerpt of Article: 
Sunday, March 17, 2013 5:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2:06 AM
 
In almost three months without the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, supporters say the city center has returned to a trashy, leaf-strewn area incompatible with a vibrant downtown.

Alex Wier, whose design studio bought and remodeled a building in the 900 block of Broad Street, said the sidewalks seem dirtier than those he saw recently in New York City.

“Leaves everywhere,” Wier said. “A billion cigarette butts and broken glass, where tourists come and families walk.”

His partner at Wier-Stewart, Daniel Stewart, provided one of the 116 signatures presented in support of Clean Augusta at an Augusta Commission meeting in December at which the group rejected renewing a special purpose tax district.

Under Georgia laws allowing the creation of business (or community) improvement districts, more than half of property-owning entities – or the owners of more than half the district's assessed value – must consent to the tax. ...

The Clean Augusta board, which met rarely during its first term, wants to address the commission's concerns about its management in an effort to have the district renewed, said board member Natalie McLeod, who has bought and renovated historic buildings in the district. ...

New bylaws will permit any property owner to be nominated and elected to the board, instead of requiring the presence of the largest property owners, McLeod said.

Lack of citizen participation and involvement is the major management problem faced by improvement districts, according to Kennesaw State University professor Andrew Ewoh, who studied 13 of the districts in metro Atlanta with graduate student Kristin Rome.

“The expectation here is that the inclusion of citizen participation will serve as an added level of legitimacy, which will provide the buy-in commitment from residents for long-term sustainability of public-private partnerships,” Ewoh and Rome wrote.