EAST POINT, Ga. -- It is an economic success story on the southwest side of Atlanta. Anchored by the Camp Creek Marketplace, this ambitious area west of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has quietly thrived over the last decade.
"This is a great side of town. We've got the airport here. We've got great hotels here, we've got great businesses here," said Brianna Williams, who lives in the area.
"It's just a nice place to be. We all can't live on the north side," added David Cole, another resident.
For the last seven months, property owners in this area have tried to form a community improvement district. CIDs are commonplace on the north side of town. They are self taxing and funnel extra tax money into their own district for infrastructure and other improvements. They've been unable to form that CID, they say, because the Fulton County tax commissioner has blocked it.
The tax commissioner is Arthur Ferdinand-- the elected official with the highest salary in the state. Ferdinand made $383,000 last year -- by taking his county salary, personally collecting fees on certain tax bills, and by personally collecting legal kickbacks from debt collectors.
"This by the way is taxation that I volunteered for," said Neel Shah, who owns two hotels in the proposed CID.
Neel Shah owns two hotels in the proposed district. He says seven months of foot dragging by Commissioner Ferdinand is costing his area's proposed CID millions of dollars.
"So I feel like I've lost $6.5 million or more than that - money that was going to be directed into that area, specifically for security, lighting and cleanup," Shah said.
Shah says instead, much of that money has been redirected to wealthier communities on the north side of Atlanta.
Ferdinand released a statement that said in part: "Our office is required to assure prior to certification, that each CID establishes that 50% of the property owners approve the creation of the CID and those consenting owners must own 75% of the fair market value of the properties within the proposed CID boundary.
"In vetting the ownership information of the proposed Airport West CID, we have concerns that give rise to a need for further review to assure the thresholds have been satisfied."
Shah says Ferdinand is mistaken. "They themselves admitted that we were within 100 percent compliance on our paperwork," he said.