City Manager Larry Wood believes the city has found the right person to guide future development in the city in Hyde.
“We wanted somebody who could hit the ground running and she’s certainly done that in the short time she’s been here,” Wood said. “I have absolute confidence in her.”
Hyde, a Carroll County resident, was hired about three weeks ago as the city’s new community development director after serving in the position on an interim basis since Freeman left to take a similar job with the city of Griffin. Freeman, who had been with the city more than seven years, helped see the city through some of its biggest development years while getting the unified development code adopted.
Hyde has a master’s degree in rural and small town planning from the University of West Georgia and is no stranger to the issues facing Villa Rica, having completed an internship with Freeman two years ago.
“I’m familiar with much of what was going on here, but I’ve been spending a lot of time getting things organized,” she said.
Hyde’s first priority is getting the Urban Redevelopment Plan approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The Urban Redevelopment Plan — the first draft of which was actually written by Hyde while she was interning in the city — would create an opportunity zone in certain parts of the downtown area through tax incentives for prospective businesses that create jobs and subsequently help revitalize these blighted areas. It has already gone through the public hearing process and been approved by the city council, but has yet to be submitted to the Department of Community Affairs.
“I’ve had a meeting with our representative from the Department of Community Affairs and we went over state law regarding opportunity zone tax credits and how to submit the application,” she said. “It’s a significant package they require that includes statistical information about Villa Rica. It takes about three or four months for them to approve once you get the application in.”
Hyde has set a goal of submitting the city’s application to DCA by Sept. 1. By doing so this year, the tax credits would be retroactive to Jan. 2012.
“I think opportunity zones will help the city tremendously because we are required by law to create the opportunity zone in a blighted area, so if we can get people to bring business to that area in return for tax credits it will help the downtown area,” Hyde said.
Running a close second in terms of priority is the development of design guidelines for commercial buildings in the city’s historic district, which will go along way in helping the city become a Certified Local Government in the eyes of DCA. Becoming a Certified Local Government would help the businesses in the district obtain grants and tax incentives.
The Villa Rica Historic Preservation Commission was developed about three years ago with the primary purpose of developing these guidelines to govern the historic areas in the city, but other than determining the boundaries of the historic districts in the city very little has been done toward that end.
“We want to get these guidelines in place before the end of the year,” Hyde said. “There are a lot of benefits to becoming a Certified Local Government and establishing these commercial guidelines because by limiting what people can do to their property you keep consistency in the city and that helps maintain property values.”
Other priorities for Hyde include reestablishing a foreclosure registry that was approved last year by the city council but never really implemented, creating policies and procedures for ensuring development bonds aren’t lost or expire without the city collecting, and reestablishing Villa Rica Beautiful — the city’s beautification committee. She has also created a City of Villa Rica Facebook page to better keep city residents informed.
“There’s a lot to do, but I’m doing what I love,” she said.