Richmond Hill City Council gave its endorsement Tuesday to a St. Louis-based developer’s planned $22.9 million renovation of Ashton Apartments that will be financed at least partly through the sale of about $15 million in revenue bonds issued by the City of McDonough Housing Authority.
The reason for all this?
The developer, Captstone Development Group, LLC, is seeking low income tax credits from the Department of Community Affairs for the renovations. If all goes as planned, actual work on the project could begin in six months, according to attorney Buddy Welch, who represents the McDonough Housing Authority.
It also won’t obligate the city, both Welch and Richmond Hill attorney Ray Smith said. But the request initially raised eyebrows as council members tried to grasp why a housing authority from a municipality near Atlanta would be involved in such a request.
"The Georgia Housing Authority law is a mishmash of a whole lot of laws," he said. "It changed probably 15-20 years ago, and at that point in time what happened was the Georgia legislature extended authority to any housing authority in Georgia to finance any type of housing project in Georgia. The one kicker is that if you do it outside your own jurisdiction, the host jurisdiction must approve."
The process, which apparently also includes a public hearing at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the courthouse for anyone who might object to the plan, doesn’t mean the McDonough Housing Authority will be running Ashton Apartments, Smith added.
"It means they are merely the public
financing vehicle," he said. "We ourselves could start a housing authority at the next meeting and they could vote to float a bond in McDonough or Cairo or Atlanta or wherever, as long as it was approved."
Though council members endorsed the request, they first raised a number of questions. John Fesperman asked for a timeline and the scope of the project; Johnny Murphy and Russ Carpenter wanted to make sure current onsite property managers retained their positions; Jan Bass wanted to know how much say the city had in making sure the work was up to Richmond Hill codes.
"If they came in and wanted to paint the apartments purple, would we have any say in that?" Bass asked.
The answer was yes.
"They’d have to go through the same review as any other project," city manager Chris Lovell said.
The developer intends "extensive renovations" to the 18-year-old apartment complex, which sits on approximately 19 acres off Harris Trail Road and includes 232 apartments for low and moderate income residents in 29 apartment buildings, according to information provided at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The addition of new appliances for bathrooms and kitchens, flooring and more is planned for the apartments, which will continue to be managed by Hallmark Management.
"They’re going to remodel all of them," Welch said. "Inside, outside, they’ll be moving people around. They anticipate the renovations taking possibly a year or two."
Before leaving, Welch turned and told council one last thing.
"Y’all have got the most cooperative, organized staff I’ve ever dealt with, outside of my own home, and I know who I’m dealing with up there," he said. "They have been Johnny on the spot."