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Vote 'yes' to revitalize your city

Imagine a day when many of Gwinnett's family of communities rival Buckhead, Midtown or Atlantic Station as the region's premier live, work and play destination. Now imagine that vision is in your hands.

If you are a resident within the city limits of Buford, Braselton, Suwanee, Dacula, Norcross, Duluth, Loganville, Sugar Hill or Lilburn, I am writing to encourage you to vote 'yes' Tuesday to allow your community the opportunity to create Tax Allocation Districts for much-needed improvements and amenities that will positively affect our quality of life.

Here's what the ballot language will read:

"Shall the act be approved which authorizes our city to exercise redevelopment powers under the Redevelopment Powers Law or Tax Allocation District for the purpose of improving economic and social conditions in depressed areas within the city?"

Confusing language I know, so let's walk through this together.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalize and breathe new life into aging areas of Gwinnett while also helping to improve our local infrastructure. Simply put, a vote for TADs will revitalize and develop declining areas; reduce traffic congestion; repair roads, sidewalks and bridges; and help control "sprawl", all without a tax increase.

TADs would give Gwinnett's cities a great new economic development tool to revitalize older, developed parts of our neighborhoods by creating "revitalization districts" that can leverage private investment. Most of our peers, including Fulton, Cobb and Atlanta, already have used TADs successfully and of the 14 Georgia TAD projects created, none have failed.

The best known example of this law in use is Atlantic Station. This same funding structure was used to fund the costs of building much of the infrastructure needed to transform a former steel mill into a vibrant community of shops, restaurants, offices and homes. Another smaller, but just as successful, TAD project has been the revitalization and redevelopment of downtown Marietta in Cobb County.

Imagine being able to clean up distressed areas throughout Gwinnett and build new commercial centers, business parks and mixed-used developments as vibrant as Atlantic Station's. That's what TADs do.

Here's how they work: When property values rise in the designated district due to redevelopment, tax revenue increases as a result. The new law would simply earmark those additional funds for traffic, infrastructure and safety improvements within that district. Existing tax revenues would remain untouched.

Best of all, the redevelopment law and the tax district are not taxes. They cost the taxpayer nothing. They do not open the door to eminent domain. Also, the citizens are not holding any debt because these instruments are private market investments that fund the improvements. They do provide for local government control with no federal strings attached - and trust me, that's good.

As the county's economic development organization tasked with bringing high-wage job opportunities to Gwinnett, the Gwinnett Chamber will continue to strive and ensure Gwinnett remains a national leader in job creation, education, wealth, public safety and a high quality of life. To achieve success in these areas, TADs are an incredibly important tool we absolutely must have at our disposal.

Vote 'yes' and encourage your friends and family to vote for the TAD referendum in your community Tuesday and help us revitalize Gwinnett.

Jim Maran is president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.