As anticipated, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoop validated an issue of Development Authority of Fulton County Taxable Revenue Bonds in a principal amount not to exceed $71.5 million for the Skyhouse Buckhead LLC planned development of a 364-unit high-rise apartment tower and parking facility on Stratford Road in Buckhead.
The Development Authority of Fulton County claims these bonds are being issued “in order to
develop and promote for the public good and general welfare trade, commerce,
industry and employment opportunities and to promote the general welfare of the
State of Georgia.”
|A rendering of the Skyhouse Buckhead development|
Garden Hills resident Bill Bozarth, a former executive director of Common Cause Georgia, board member of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B in Buckhead (where the Skyhouse Buckhead project is to be built) went to the hearing to attempt to intercede for the public in objecting to the bond validation but was not allowed to do so.
The Development Authority’s attorney Cary Ichter made a statement at the beginning of the 45-minute hearing “that recent court rulings state that anyone wishing to object at a bond validation hearing must file a motion before the hearing and that my objection should be disallowed.” Bozarth told BuckheadView on Friday.
|Bill Bozarth at a NPU-B|
“I had a letter with me outlining my reasons for objection, but I had not sent anything to the court prior to the hearing date,” Bozarth added. However, he said the judge did allow him to speak.
“I was able to state my objections,” Bozarth said. “Judge Shoop said that she could see my point, but that I had not followed civil procedure, and disallowed my request to become a party to the hearings. I told Judge Shoop that I had followed the procedure set out in the hearing notice, and that I had no way of knowing there were additional requirements. She advised me to have the services of a lawyer if I were to seek to become a party to future proceedings.”
Prior to the hearing before the judge, Bozarth told BuckheadView, “It looks like the developer (Novare) is seeking to structure the same kind of revenue bonds that will result in a property tax abatement on this property as we saw for the Elle (apartment complex on Pharr Road), Bozart told BuckheadView.
The developers of Elle initially tried to get a similar bond issue for $60 million-plus through Invest Atlanta, but that was thwarted by Dist. 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook and others on the basis there is no project in Buckhead that is a hardship project that needs tax abatements and public bond issues to be developed.
A feature of these tax abatements is that the developer pays 50 percent or less of property taxes the first year after completion and then that eventually works down to a zero benefit over years.
|A photo of the Elle Apartments on Pharr Road near Peachtree|
Following completion of the initial phase of Elle, which according to the developer is more than 85 percent leased and at some of the highest rental rates in metro Atlanta, the Fulton County Development Authority has tried to issue a similar bond arrangement for that development. Apparently that effort has stalled for the time being. (Read a BuckheadView story about Elle here.)
Another Buckhead project that received the same type of advantage from the Fulton County Development Authority was the St. Regis Atlanta hotel and condominiums on West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead.
Bozarth reported that during the Wednesday hearing Ichter laid out the facts on the structure of the bond package. He called an expert witness, Henry Wise, to testify to the correctness of the valuation and other aspects of the package. After all this testimony, Bozarth said the hearing was quickly concluded.
“Afterwards, Lewis Horne asked me for my letter and offered me a chance to meet with DAFC,” Bozarth added.