MARIETTA — Following a contentious debate among the Cobb School Board and developers, the company behind a $103 million mixed-use development has withdrawn its application for a lucrative tax break.
Just an hour and a half before a court hearing was scheduled to take place to validate bonds financing a property tax abatement, the Development Authority of Cobb County said the developer of the planned Riverwalk project withdrew his application.
The project, backed by real estate developer John Williams and overseen by his consultant, Tad Leithead, had been approved for 250 apartment units and a 10-story office tower.
But developers soon found themselves at the center of a controversy over incentives: When are tax breaks appropriate, how should they be doled out and who should control who qualifies for them? Should these lucrative deals be handed out solely by an unelected board such as the Development Authority, or should the elected county Board of Commissioners have final say?
These are all questions that remain to be answered in the aftermath of Thursday’s news that Leithead had withdrawn his application for Riverwalk incentives.
Though Riverwalk didn’t meet Cobb’s criteria to qualify for incentives, which includes creating 25 jobs and contributing $500,000 to the tax base, the Development Authority of Cobb County offered Riverwalk a 10-year graduated tax break much to the dismay of the school board, which faces a $79 million funding shortfall.
“This project would have provided over $3 million in additional property tax revenue to the district over 10 years, which would assist in helping resolve budget shortfalls. The winner of this quest needs to be the children of Cobb County; in this instance, they are losers,” said banker Clark Hungerford, chairman of the Development Authority, on Thursday morning, regarding the prepared statement.