Chamblee, GA, April 3, 2017 – by Trey Benton – The City of Chamblee has been trying for three years to raise their Hotel/Motel Tax, putting the City at the same level as what DeKalb County levies. This year a bill sponsored by State Representative Tom Taylor (R-79), was successful in navigating the Legislative process. It is now waiting for Governor Nathan Deal’s signature. If Governor Deal does sign the bill in to law, Chamblee’s current 5% Hotel/Motel tax will rise 3% to 8%.
Chamblee’s FY2017 budget projects total Hotel/Motel Tax revenue at $390,000. Under the existing arrangement, 60% of that revenue – or $234,000 – goes to the City’s General Fund; and 40% – or $156,000 – goes to Discover DeKalb.
Using current projections, the additional revenue from increasing to 8% equals $234,000, half of which ($117,000) must go to Discover DeKalb. The other half ($117,000) would go to the City to be spent on “tourism product development.” These new revenues could fund existing or planned projects that would increase tourism.
Described as one of the City’s great public amenities, a planned Rail Trail expansion is tops on Chamblee’s list to receive these funds.
In August of 2016, members of the Chamblee City Council approved the Rail-Trail Extension Master Plan, a plan prepared by consultant Heath & Lineback Engineers, that will add-on to the approximately 1 mile existing Rail-Trail by another 1.5 miles. Perez Planning + Design, LLC served as the Design Team for the project and the Chamblee community attended several meetings providing valuable input as to what they would like to see incorporated.
Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson says the Rail Trail has been one of his top priorities since first being elected. “I am very excited about this next phase in the development of the Chamblee Rail Trail,” Clarkson told The Post. “Now, along with plans from the Peachtree Gateway Partnership/Atlanta Regional Commission, and others, we are moving forward with helping to fulfill one of the ARC’s goals; to create the greatest trail network in America here in Metro Atlanta.”
With the City’s approval of the Rail Trail Extension Plan, Chamblee now has a “guide” for implementation, and also assigns costs associated with the stated amenities and defined goals in the plan. Heath & Lineback estimate realizing the full scope of the plan will cost upwards of $14.6 million. The City says funding will be through a series of grants, coupled with City funding. Chamblee is beginning to move in to their next Budget planning period, which will also include a 5-year “planning ahead” exercise.
The Chamblee Rail Trail Extension Plan contemplates a series of short and long-term projects along the spine of abandoned rail spurs once utilized by the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the old Roswell Railroad, that once carried passengers, workers, and goods between Chamblee and Roswell – hence the name Rail Trail.
The broader vision for the Rail Trail, is to hook up to a planned Doraville multi-use trail and Brookhaven’s planned Peachtree Creek Greenway – ultimately connecting to PATH400 and the Atlanta Beltline. If all goes as planned, and it will take time and money, it could be possible to go all the way from Doraville to the City of Atlanta along one connected trail system, one of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) long-term goals as folded into their Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) program.
The LCI Program “seeks to increase the use of alternatives to driving alone by developing transportation projects and other programs to improve accessibility, expand mixed-uses and mass transit utilization.”