Lowe bullish on Oneonta outlook



At the gazebo downtown, city manager Ed Lowe gets a charge (for his phone) at Sun System’s newly installed solar charging station, the locally conceived, developed, and manufactured product that fits right in with the renewed economic energy that seems to be infusing downtown and the surrounding area.

At the gazebo downtown, city manager Ed Lowe gets a charge (for his phone) at Sun System’s newly installed solar charging station, the locally conceived, developed, and manufactured product that fits right in with the renewed economic energy that seems to be infusing downtown and the surrounding area.

“The general outlook for the town is more positive than we’ve seen for several years,” said city manager Ed Lowe, neatly stating in his first breath the theme of the conversation that followed.

He followed by listing several positive indicators of the city’s resurgent economic vitality:

• more new building permit requests than any time in recent years.

• new interest in renovating downtown buildings.

• recent sale of more than half a dozen buildings in the downtown and near-downtown area.

• more requests for information from out-of-town interests on city characteristics and opportunities.

• pervasive sense of optimism throughout the community. (“Community optimism is as high as I’ve seen it since I’ve worked here,” Lowe said.)

Those generalizations have some facts behind them, too:

• seven new building permits issued in last three months.

• six buildings sold downtown in last 90 days.

• new subdivision – the first in six to seven years – under construction on Springville Boulevard – 14 lots with three new houses already permitted.

• new apartment complex planned – 40 units off Ala 75 near the National Guard Armory.

• several remodeling projects already underway: the McCurry’s building (restaurant?), the Alaco building diagonally across the street from McCurry’s (possible sports bar?), the former Blockbuster building (Hispanic specialty grocery), plus Taco Bell, Domino’s Pizza, WinSouth Credit Union – and others waiting in the wings: the former Goin’ Postal building, the former Gold Dust Jewelry store, and Region’s Bank downtown, for openers. By next month, possibly others.

• don’t forget the city’s premier project, still moving steadily forward: the Little Brick Church, already a historical landmark being reconditioned for a new lease on life as a multi-use community showcase and activity center.

• and get this, boys and girls – a new concept for this area: two quadruplexes (think double duplexes) at Limestone Springs built on the luxury college dorm model: private bedrooms and bath for each unit, plus a shared kitchen and living room common area, including imaginable amenities – built to target the corporate market.

Alcohol tax update

Lowe said the city collected about $180,000 in alcohol tax revenues in the first six months of operation under the wet regime, from 16 licensees.

“Based on other cities, we could conservatively estimate about $280,000 per year from that source,” Lowe said. He said 25 percent of those proceeds go to schools, 25 percent to public safety, and 50 percent to the city general fund.

“We’ll try to use the general fund portion of that money for community development,” he said.

Speaking of finances…

Through the years of the economic downturn we thinned up on expenditures wherever we could,” Lowe said.“During that period, people had good ideas for things that needed to be done, but we weren’t in a financial position to do them. We’ll still approach the budget conservatively. That’s ingrained. We could do everything everybody wants and borrow enough money to do it, but then if the economy goes south again, the burden is on the community. It’s the good name and character of the community that’s on the line, if we get in the position of not being able to live up to our commitments.

“We’ve been fortunate that hasn’t happened. We want to grow, but we want to manage it responsibly. When you have a chance to grow, you have to take advantage of it. I think we can improve amenities here and at the same time maintain the quality of life we have, which is what people come here for. It takes a concentrated effort to balance those ends. It’s a constant balancing act.”

Relating to the renovation of commercial property downtown

A public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. on July 13 at Oneonta City Hall to consider zoning in the downtown area between A street and 5th street and between Railroad Ave. and 3rd Ave. E, incorporating downtown and the downtown fringe area. The proposal to be discussed would change present B-2 zoning to amended B-3 zoning to provide more flexibility in the use and improvement of business property. Those interested should plan to attend and contribute ideas and comments as appropriate.