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Duluth anticipates $22.4 million in SPLOST funds

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council on Monday authorized city officials to execute an agreement with Gwinnett County for the use and distribution of 2008 special purpose local option sales tax funds.

Duluth is expecting to receive $22.4 million in proceeds from the 1 percent sales tax. This amount takes the current economy into consideration, according to City Administrator Phil McLemore.

"It's figured at 80 percent to be conservative," he said.

The city's SPLOST list allocates $9.2 million for transportation improvements, including construction of the Hospital Connector and Ridgeway Road extension, street resurfacing, and sidewalks.

About $8.8 million is allocated for park expansion and improvements that include creating a dog park at Rogers Bridge Park and installing playground equipment at Taylor Road Park, while, $1.4 million is earmarked for public safety including purchasing new police vehicles, equipment and computer software.

The list designates $1.5 million for providing more downtown parking and $1.5 million for providing sewer along parts of Buford Highway that do not have it.

Gwinnett voters will decide in November whether to continue the tax for five years.

The council tabled adopting an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance that establishes overlay districts and creates design standards for developments along the Buford Highway corridor and in downtown Duluth.

"The two overlay districts will assist the city in promoting redevelopment" in these areas, said city Planning Director Cliff Cross.

A public hearing on the amendment was conducted by the council during Monday's meeting. The text of the amendment is available on the city's Web site at www.duluthga.net.

The overlay districts supplement base zoning regulations and preserve existing commercial and residential uses in the districts with a few exceptions. Sales of automobiles, trucks, modular and manufactured homes would not be allowed.

Existing non-conforming uses would be "grandfathered," Cross said.

The ordinance was drafted by city planning staff with input from land owners and developers and reviewed by the planning commission prior to being forwarded to the council.

The council tabled action until its Aug. 25 meeting to allow more time to review the lengthy amendment and to consider comments from citizens at the hearing.

"This project is very important to us and to the citizens of Duluth," said Mayor Nancy Harris. "The No. 1 thing we hear is that we need to clean up Buford Highway."

The council accepted a $300,000 federal transportation enhancement grant for medians on Buford Highway. The grant is administered through the Georgia Department of Transportation.