Lee clears senior development hurdle

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Lee County Commission took care of a "formality" at a special called meeting Thursday afternoon that will allow the principles involved in development of the Forrester Senior Village to move forward with the $5 million-$6 million project.

The Board of Commissioners gave unanimous approval to a resolution of support for the project that is required by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for that entity to offer tax breaks for the development.

Commissioner Bill Williams said after the brief meeting the resolution of support was needed by the DCA.

"It's really just a formality," Williams said. "The DCA wants assurances from the Commission that it supports the project."

Josh Thomason of Atlanta-based Peachtree Housing Partners, which with Rea Development of Cordele and Flint Ventures of Albany is putting the project together, pointed out the need for the resolution of support to Commissioners after they approved a rezoning request April 29 that would allow the affordable senior housing complex to be built.

"There's really one more hurdle that we need to clear," he said.

Flint Ventures partner Jim Bacon said Thursday the Commission's vote was the only item standing in the way of the project moving forward.

"That was the hurdle," Bacon said. "I got an e-mail from Josh today, and he said as quick as we got the resolution of support he planned to immediately turn loose his engineers and people who do environmental work."

Thomason, meanwhile, said the project hinges on awarding of the competitive tax credits, but he said he and his partners feel confident that Forrester Senior Village would qualify.

"There's a point system that the DCA uses when awarding the credits, but we're pretty confident we'll come out on the high end of the system," Thomason said. "Let's put it this way: At the end of the day, I'm not the kind of person who throws a lot of money around just to see what sticks. If it was $3,000, maybe. But we'll spend a good $25,000 just on the application process, and it's non-refundable.

"We have to have our application submitted by July 22, and we'll get word on the tax breaks by Dec. 31. If everything goes as planned, I expect we'd start construction during the second quarter of 2011. We could start in the first quarter, but I think a safer bet is the second. Of course, it all hinges on the tax credits."

Lee County Administrator Alan Ours told commissioners the resolution of support was "very critical" to the senior development moving forward.

Ours also gave an overview of a fiscal management policy that the Board approved at the called meeting.

"This policy establishes formal guidelines for the budget process," Ours said. "A lot of it is what we do already, but it's good practice for counties to have a formal policy in place."