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DeKalb Commission to Vote on Controversial GM Plant Deal | News

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DeKalb Commission to Vote on Controversial GM Plant Deal

DEKALB COUNTY, GA - It's one of the largest ghost towns in metro Atlanta, 165 acres that turned out 60 years worth of General Motors cars.

When the GM plant closed 2 years ago, the City of Doraville lost about 8% of its income and many local businesses lost a chunk of theirs.

After 20 years, Wesley Horgon saw his car repair and detailing business drop off 20%

"General Motors was a great help to the whole City of Doraville," Horgon says, "When General Motors went out, we lost a lot of revenue here."

Last January Wesley Horgon and many of Doraville's 10,000 residents were encouraged to hear that a Florida developer wanted to buy the old GM plant property and create a new downtown with mixed retail, living and office space.

One reason is its convenient location just off I-285 on Atlanta's north side and right next to a MARTA rail and bus station.

On Thursday those Orlando developers, called New Broad Street Properties, held a joint news conference with DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis and other supporters to push the deal.

After 6 months of negotiations, the full DeKalb County Commission is set to vote on whether to approve or reject the private-public partnership at its Tuesday morning meeting.

Ellis promises the deal will mean 9,000 demolition and construction jobs in the near future and as many as 6,500 permanent jobs once the complex is completed over the next few years.

The developers are to put up $25-million of the $60-million purchase price with DeKalb County financing the remaining $35-million.

Ellis says the county's share will be in the form of Recovery Zone Bonds under the federal stimulus program.

But DeKalb County will have to repay them, with interest, over the next 30 years, which he admits might mean a tax increase.

He insists the deal is worth it because he expects it to bring in $129-million in tax revenue to the county and $322-million to the school system.

Ellis won't call it a gamble, but admits it's a "reasonable risk".

"We've got to do something to get people back to work; we can't be passive; we can't just sit on our hands and hope and pray that the good will come," he insists.

When asked about the wisdom of building such a huge project in a down economy, Ellis says the economy should have recovered by the time it's completed.

Noticeably absent from the news conference were any Doraville city officials who've complained they've been excluded from negotiations and who are opposed to any tax hike.

DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who represents the Doraville area, immediately condemned the deal and Ellis, who she called "arrogant".

"Right now with the way the deal is structured, it's simply a tax increase," Boyer insisted.

"The DeKalb citizens don't gain anything from it except a promise and I don't know that we can believe that promise," she added.

Meanwhile, back at his Doraville auto repair and detailing shop, owner Wesley Horgon also bristled at the possibility of any more taxes.

"No. We don't need no more tax hikes," he told 11 Alive News.

When asked if he'd rather do without the new development than pay higher taxes, Horgon added, "There you go."

Speaking for the development company, Blake Peeper of New Board Street Properties admitted the deal could be dead if DeKalb County Commissioners vote it down Tuesday.