Blue Ridge, Ga. – A Downtown Development Authority (DDA) could be in the near future for the City of Blue Ridge.
Opposition from some to creating this organization became overshadowed by the need for the city to obtain more funding, and certain funding and grants can only be obtained by a DDA.
Beyond gathering extra funds for the City of Blue Ridge, a DDA will also be a policy-making body and a major decision-making entity that plans and manages the downtown area.
Ann Arnold, who has 31 years of experience with DDAs and their development, was asked by the Mayor and Blue Ridge City Council to step-in in assisting with the creation and structuring of Blue Ridge’s DDA.
Arnold not only created a draft of the outlines for the new DDA, but also examined Blue Ridge for appropriate boundaries of a designated “downtown area” and interviewed potential applicants to fill the 7 member board.
In a special called Blue Ridge City Council meeting Arnold laid out her recommendations on all areas including who she felt would be ideal members of this inaugural board.
“I really was impressed with these people,” Arnold explained of the applicants that she interviewed, “You absolutely cannot go wrong with this board.”
Arnold stated that many of the applicants had already researched the role of a DDA and was familiar with the laws in which they would be working. Some applicants even went as far as to reach out to other DDAs in researching the role they would potentially be filling.
In the interview process Arnold asked each applicant the same questions. She took into account the applicants backgrounds and strong points in hopes of creating a diversified board. Her recommendations are as follows:
- John (Jay) Hamilton to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
- Nichole Potzauf to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
- Gene Holcombe to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
- Michelle Moran to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
- Cesar Martinez to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
- Jeff DePaola to serve 2 Years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2020.
Originally it was discussed that Mayor Donna Whitener would serve as the seventh member. However, as Arnold saw that the Mayor position was already full-time she offered a different recommendation: “One of the board members, one of the seven will be a council member.”
“It would be nice to have different councilmembers, maybe every two years rotate and have some different insight,” Arnold explained her thoughts on this recommendation, “but also an opportunity for each of the council members to really understand the day to day work of the Downtown Development Authority.”
After Arnold gave her recommendations for board members she moved on to discuss the boundaries of the designated downtown area.
“The resolution does require that you (the city) designate the downtown development area that the downtown development would be serving,” Arnold said explaining the need to have clear boundaries.
The recommendations show the boundaries being roughly East First Street to the East, West Second Street to the West, McKinney Street to the South, and River Street to the North.
Questions arose from council members concerning areas already containing businesses that were not included, to which Arnold replied, “You really want to protect that residential. You have got some beautiful homes all around a number of these areas, and what you have by having that residential is you’ve got a built in audience. Those people are going to use goods and services. They can walk downtown.”
Blue Ridge City Attorney James Balli addressed the council about previously discussed concerns after listening to Arnold’s recommendations: “Once you activate them (DDA approval), they’re out there, whatever is in the resolution.”
Balli recommended that the council go through the DDA resolution more thoroughly and input provisions limiting control of the DDA and the permanence of the directors: “I would heavily recommend that you leave in the provisions about being able to remove directors for cause.”
A 7 year sunset provision was also recommended. This would essentially give the council the ability to dissolve the DDA after 7 years. Balli said of this precaution it “is as close as you are going to get to be able to kill it.”
Arnold questioned the sunset provision and said to the council that DDA and the City Council should be viewed as a team.
Further discussion and possible enactment of the DDA is expected to take place at the upcoming Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held Tuesday, Dec. 11 at City Hall.
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