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Norcross businesses back self-tax

LAWRENCEVILLE - Business leaders forming a self-taxing improvement district in the Norcross area have been more successful than they expected.

Through Friday, 354 land owners had bought into their vision of a rejuvenated business district where crime is less prevalent, property values are higher and streets and shopping centers are more orderly.

Put another way, the revitalization-geared group has signed up land worth $627 million with two days left until it stops recruiting commercial property owners.

The 455 parcels will generate $1.5 million-plus in annual tax revenue, which the district will use to mend and improve the unincorporated area that has struggled with traffic, crime and urban blight.

Dubbed Gwinnett Village, the swath of land between Norcross and Lilburn is dotted with industrial complexes, office parks and aging shopping centers beside heavily traveled roads, many of which lack sidewalks.

Several months ago, district backers scaled back their plans, thinking they would be unable to draw all the commercial properties along Jimmy Carter Boulevard into the Southwest Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.

Many also thought getting land owners along Buford Highway to sign consent forms agreeing to tax themselves would be too

challenging.

That has changed, said Chuck Warbington, executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement Association.

"Nobody thought Buford Highway would come around, but it did," Warbington said, attributing the success to efforts by Norcross city officials.

Also, Warbington said all of Jimmy Carter Boulevard from Buford Highway to Britt Road will be in the district, which county commissioners are expected to approve in coming weeks.

Parts of Oakbrook Parkway, Beaver Ruin Road and Indian-Trail Lilburn Road will also be in the district.

Michael Kim of Dunwoody signed up for the district one month ago because he thinks "the area needs a new kind of outlook."

He owns the Norcross Plaza shopping center on Buford Highway near Norcross-Tucker Road, and he wants the proposed district to focus on adding sidewalks and dressing up main road corridors with landscaping and other beautification measures.

"We need more decorations on the sidewalks so when people are here they feel like they are in a neat environment," Kim said.

The districts are formed when a majority of commercial property owners agree to tax themselves and use the revenue for community improvements, such as landscaping, litter removal or security patrols.

The money can also be used to attract state and federal funds, making much larger projects possible, such as new sidewalks and road upgrades.

For every $750,000 worth of property the district signs up, under state law it can force in another $250,000 worth. One of those that will be drawn in that way is the massive OFS plant at Interstate 85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Warbington said. He said 350 property owners have signed up.

The 5-mill tax rate that will be adopted after the district's creation will add another $2,000 to the tax bill for a $1 million property.