9 cities pass redevelopment referenda

LAWRENCEVILLE - City residents gave overwhelming nods to revitalization referenda Tuesday.

The propositions, which would give city councils the power to set up tax allocation districts, passed in Buford, Braselton, Dacula, Duluth, Lilburn, Loganville, Norcross, Sugar Hill and Suwanee.

"The work begins, but the good news is, we got the green light," said Skip Nau, chairman of Norcross's Downtown Development Authority. "We feel great about it. We're ready to press on. ... '08 is going to be a good year."

Voters in Norcross gave the referenda a 479-237 nod, a margin fairly common in Tuesday's polls.

Tax allocation districts, a funding mechanism that was used to create Atlanta's Atlantic Station, would allow governments to sell bonds backed by the expected growth in tax revenues because of increases in property values after redevelopment. The bonds would pay for infrastructure improvements.

The measure failed narrowly in a county referendum last year, but city voters gave it much more support.

With only the revitalization prospect on the ballot, Buford voters gave the referendum a 99 to 13 outcome.

"You never know what the people's reaction will be," City Commission Chairman Phillip Beard said. "The cities in the lower end of the county definitely need it. ... We wanted that opportunity if it's needed down the road.

Braselton City Clerk Jennifer Scott said she was pleased with the participation in her city, which also gave an overwhelming nod with a 144-37 vote.

"For a referendum with nothing else on the ballot, that's pretty good," Scott said of the 7.5 percent turnout.

In Sugar Hill, the referendum won with a vote of 592-258. In Duluth, it passed 924-216. Suwanee voters gave it 837-522 and Lilburn voters had a margin of 694-241.

Dacula and Loganville, small cities where plans for tax allocation districts aren't currently in the works, also got approval for the future.

The tally in Loganville was 563-427 and 194-70 in Dacula.