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Leaders say Atlanta's BeltLine important for Gwinnett

ATLANTA -- Brian Leary wants it to be clear: Transportation sales tax funds won't be taken from the suburbs to fund an Atlanta pet project.

With a vote over the tax less than two months away, Leary, the CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc., showed off the series of trails, parks and transit projects taking shape along defunct railroad corridors in Atlanta to a group of Gwinnett civic and business leaders.

But as much as Leary supports the proposed regional tax, which would raise $8.5 billion for the 10-county metro Atlanta community, he kept driving home the point that it wasn't the Gwinnett portion of the tax he was interested in.

He pointed out that the city of Atlanta is expected to generate $1 billion in revenue over the 10-year program, and of the $900 million outlined for city projects, $601 million would go to the BeltLine.

"I think it's about just sharing what we are doing," he said of hosting the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce contingent on a tour Friday. "It's not city or counties versus one another. It's about regionalism. ... We wanted to show it's a good project for the area."

Jann Moore, the Gwinnett Chamber's vice president of public policy, said the message was important for leaders to hear.

"It's very unusual for a chamber of commerce to endorse a tax increase, but with a four-to-one return on our investment, we know how important this is," she said of educating the business community about the July 31 referendum.

While a good education system is the No. 1 draw to bring businesses to Gwinnett, traffic and transportation woes are the No. 1 reason they decide against locating here, she said.

With the sales tax money to fund 10.1 miles of transit -- five in the Beltline corridor and the rest traversing through Midtown to connect the two sides of the city -- "Atlanta gets back in the game in a very big way," Leary said of the economic development potential.

In a bus filled with three mayors and others, Leary pointed to new development going up around slivers of poured asphalt, and, in other areas, tracks left covered with grass by years of neglect. In some of Atlanta's proudest neighborhoods, where the BeltLine is bringing a new sense of community, he pointed to graffiti on one wall with a mural on the other side.

Behind the century-old former Sear's building, which served for years as a second City Hall, he talked about the revitalization spurred after leaders decided to create a lush $25 million pocket park instead of a $40 million vault retention facility to solve the problems of a creek flooding the historic building.

The Beltline, Leary said, has caused the community to rally in places like the historic Peoplestown community that was once distrustful after a park was built over a landfill, causing a little girl to catch on fire, sparked by leaking methane gas while she slid down a slide.

Along the 33-mile trail network, which links 45 communities, the city now has its first skatepark, inspired by enthusiasts who once used the abandoned foundation of a burned out house for their sport. And leaders have plans to build a 300-acre scenic overlook on a defunct rock quarry, creating the city's largest park.

"When you see the Beltline, that's what the young people want," Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson said of bringing young professionals to the metro region, and drawing jobs with them.

Amidst the trails, transit and parks, leaders are also working on affordable housing, through rehabbing foreclosed developments and creating a foundation to help those who survived the worst times in their community to be able to afford to stay during its renaissance. And art projects dot the landscape.

It's an ambitious plan, expected to take decades to come to full fruition, although about 10 miles of the loop are already open.

Of the $4 billion in projects, about $1.5 billion is coming from tax-increment financing created through a tax-allocation district approved in 2005. Millions more are coming from private dollars and grants.

If the regional sales tax passes in July, the total will come to more than half the money needed to complete the plans, and the transit project could be built in seven years, leaders said.

According to the studies completed in 2005, the BeltLine is expected to created $20 billion in new economic development and 30,000 permanent jobs.

"This is an important regional project. This is not only important to downtown and Atlanta, but also to us," Moore said to the Gwinnett contingent. "This is the most important initiative we have taken on as a city. ... We are partners regionally."

Comments

CitizenY 1 year, 10 months ago

Don't forget the MEDIANS. We need lots and lots and lots of medians, and more stop-lights, and more 8-way intersections, to OBSTRUCT. Oh, and more traffic cameras, while you jokers are at it. DREAM ON, jokers--your days are numbered. Maybe you don't understand what AUSTERITY means.

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hpytravlr 1 year, 10 months ago

Are Atlanta residents going to pay a 1 cent sales tax to pay for parks in Suwanee. This is a joke!

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jjbod1 1 year, 10 months ago

I cant wait to vote NO! on this! I so hope this fails, its going to be fun to watch the aftermath if it does.

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skygirl 1 year, 10 months ago

Just vote NO and encourage everyone you know to do the same!!!!!!

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NewsReader 1 year, 10 months ago

We trust you Brian Leary. Absolutely we do...in much the same way we trust the SRTA, the Georgia DOT, Gwinnett DOT, et al. In fact, we trust you so much so, I'm going to coin the phrase on your honor..."Be Leary of Leary!" Until the HOT lanes are gone, we really have nothing else to discuss as far as transportation is concerned in Gwinnett County. LOL, just take a look at the Gwinnett's bus system! It would be down right comical if it weren't so absolutely absurd.

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TOWG 1 year, 10 months ago

There is no way I'm going to vote for this increase and I encourage you to vote against it as well.

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BuzzG 1 year, 10 months ago

What a headline on this article. How is this for a headline "Gwinnett taxpayers say enough is enough."

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dav 1 year, 10 months ago

I do not care if this is a tax to pay off my mortgage, the answer is still NO

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JHT 1 year, 10 months ago

So two commissioners and the chairman are accused of misusing our money and now they want us to trust them with more. You have got to be KIDDING. As far as my penny goes they can take it out of the 2.40 I payed Friday to ride in the HOT lane that I had no say over. Thank god I have a voice and can vote NO on this debacle.

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 10 months ago

still a resounding NO from me...

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JimmyOrr 1 year, 10 months ago

Your usual hype by the C of C. Keep them "NO" votes coming. Especially on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

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CD 1 year, 10 months ago

This is an important regional project. This is not only important to downtown and Atlanta, but also to us," Moore said to the Gwinnett contingent. "This is the most important initiative we have taken on as a city. ... We are partners regionally."

Pablo Escobar also had plenty of partners. Enough is enough, Gluttonous Heathens.

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jack 1 year, 10 months ago

There is too much fat in that Beltline. Let's put it on a diet.

Never vote a tax upon yourself.

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Sandykin 1 year, 10 months ago

If it's so important to Gwinnett, shouldn't the graphic in this article illustrate that benefit? I look at the chart and east of I-85 and north of I-20, there seems to be, well, just...um...nothing. I read the article and really got to wonder how any of these changes are going to bring any benefit to us folks way out in the Grayson/Loganville/Snellville area. My vote is still no.

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R 1 year, 10 months ago

We are all "one big happy region" now that we have a chance to get to your money that is ...

And that regional thing will last until we are sucked dry.

Just remember how happy the HOT lanes made Mayor Reed?

Because the city would see some funding ...

Now you know how cattle feel as they are ogled for beef cuts.

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Gwinnettsince1991 1 year, 10 months ago

The HOT lanes and the TSPLOST are nothing but redistribution of wealth that will, in the end, end up way over budget and burden us with another TSPLOST extension to pay off the greedy contractors who will charge way too much. Just look at Illinois as an example of a mess the DOT can cause as well as a budget crisis. I also believe that we have enough development here in the region, and I don't trust the politicians with my money.

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R 1 year, 10 months ago

But the "shipping and handling" fee of those funds make some high priced jobs...

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JimmyOrr 1 year, 10 months ago

TIA-M-001 to TIA-M-014 State of Good Repair and Station Enhancements (Consolidiated) are MARTA projects on the TSPLOST Constrained Projects List in the amount of $600,000,000. million dollars. Among the station enhancements would be upgrades to the existing escalators in existing MARTA rail stations. You would think that the repair and upgrades of escalatos would have been budgeted in MARTA's ongong O & M budget from day one. In the course of one month I will have traveled on most all of the interstate network in Metro Atlanta. I have yet to see anyone commuting to and from work on an escalator.

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NewsReader 1 year, 10 months ago

"...MARTA chief executive Beverly Scott warned state lawmakers Monday that even if next year's transportation referendum passes, the metro area's largest transit system will still face $2.3 billion in unfunded maintenance needs over the next decade..."

Courtesy of the AJC on September 26, 2011. Dang, don't you just hate it when that happens! LOL!

If we have all of these maintenance needs, then why aren't we addressing them first instead of finding ways to spend money on other projects? Anyone? Anyone? Buelller?

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smshirk 1 year, 10 months ago

Vote no. They will take an extra penny sales tax for forevermore and give us bread crums every now and then in return, while spending all the money inside 285 or lining their own pockets. We can not trust any politician. we need to vote everyone of them out in every election; local, state, and federal until we see real change. We are no longer represented, we are maneuvered by crooks, con men, or politician for short!

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OrganicGrl 1 year, 10 months ago

Am I blind or what? I don't see anything they are doing to Gwinnett County. It seems this tax is for the city of Atlanta, and if so they are the ones you need to count on. Once again you want us to vote for something that Gwinnettians will never get to see or experience in our own county.

Vote NO!!!! and I willl make a sign to put in my front yard.

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NewsReader 1 year, 10 months ago

This is all about benefiting Atlanta at Gwinnett's expense. Nothing more! Nothing less! Just like the stupid HOT lanes! The HOT Lanes have proven to be nothing more than a nuisance to the people in Gwinnett County!

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gwinnettisgreat1 1 year, 10 months ago

Not true. Use them every day. Just like this morning. It was awesome. The HOT lanes work... you just have lane jealousy. It's ok. I understand.

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NewsReader 1 year, 10 months ago

There is STUPID and then there is you! You give new meaning to the term!

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