Decatur Community Transportation Plan Update Coming

I’m pretty jazzed that this is coming up again soon.  I was just thinking about my old roundabout idea the other day!  I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.  From the AJC

Decatur has recently hired a consultant to provide master planning services for updating the community transportation plan. Community input meetings should begin in late August or September.

…“Some of the things I think you’ll see with the new plan include better street crossings,” Planning Director Angela Threadgill said. “I think you’ll see enhancing of the Safe Routes to School program. We’d like to create some off-street pathways, and I think you’ll start to see sharrows [lanes for both cars and bikes] disappear. They are nationally falling out of favor.”

The final plan needs approval from the city commission. Threadgill believes the community input process should take 10 months and finish by late next spring.

Photo courtesy of DM

Decatur To Continue Recycling Glass For Now

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Many Decatur residents have been wondering whether Decatur will still be recycling glass in the future, after a recent AJC report noted many recyclers servicing metro Atlanta municipalities are shipping glass to landfills instead of recycling it.

Why?  Because it’s gotten expensive to sort out and recycle glass.

Well, it looks like the AJC followed up with Asst. City Manager David Junger who said that the city’s current contract with Latham Home Sanitation includes the recycling of glass.  That contract runs through June.

After that, Decatur’s commissioners are likely gonna have to make some tough decisions.  If glass recycling remains financially unsustainable, here’s the list of options that Mr. Junger provided…

  • Stop recycling glass
  • Have Latham collect glass separately
  • Have the city collect glass separately
  • Set up drop off locations in the city for glass recycling

As we have written about before, the recycling game is much more complex than our giant blue bins suggest.  And the big bin itself has been linked to part of the problem, as the size and convenience of the big bin leads to lazier recycling on our part.  Combine that with the complexity of separating the wide variety of items at recycling centers and you’ve got yourself a system that feels easy, but isn’t when it comes to the dollars and cents that drive the industry.

MARTA To Make Pitch For $8 Billion in Projects

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Always a favorite topic here: MARTA’s plans for the future!

And in this case, the plans are very large according to a Sunday piece on the AJC.  Here’s the gist of it…

The future of metro Atlanta could become startlingly linear — a single file of major economic development up and down what is now Georgia 400, built along a rail line that would link Alpharetta with downtown Atlanta and its airport beyond.

The biggest public works package in decades would have other elements as well. In DeKalb County, there would be a rail link to Emory University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus another line shooting eastward along I-20. Within the city of Atlanta, the Beltline awaits.

Wow, that’s a big project.

The AJC describes that northern expansion as a rail line “thrust between Cobb and Gwinnett counties”, who we know have resisted MARTA since it’s inception.

So that’s the basic plan.  How will we pay for it?

Basically, MARTA is trying to tweak the 1/2 cent sales tax that County’s could levy for transportation projects that was approved during the last legislative session. They just need the legislature to remove the five-set sunset currently attached to the sales tax bill and the additional $175-$200 million in new revenue could translate into $4 billion in loans.

And if you’re still a MARTA doubter, this quote in the article from MARTA’s Chairman of the Board, Robert Ashe, is perhaps worth considering…

“Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations. State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station,” Ashe said. The trend will only continue.

Decatur Now Sounds More Optimistic About Getting Speed Limits Reduced

speed limit signThis is quite a rollercoaster of red tape, stalled/restarted efforts, and bureaucratic hurdle jumping. Let’s recap.

Back in January we reported that the Decatur Citizen Survey showed that a majority of residents were interested in reducing the speed limit inside the city.  We then were told by the city that the plan was still alive inside city hall, though it hadn’t seem to have seen .

Then in February, Decatur Heights neighbors took to the podium at City Hall and reinvigorated the conversation, asking the city commission take action on a 2011 25 mph residential speed zone petition for the entire Decatur Heights neighborhood.  At that meeting, Asst. City Manager David Junger told the commission that it had been difficult to move the process forward, due in part to staff changes at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Now the AJC is reporting that after a recent meeting with the state’s Department of Transportation, Mr. Junger is “encouraged about eventually getting city speed limits reduced”.

“Our next step is compiling a spread sheet of those roads eligible for 25 mph,” Junger said.

Eligibility would include streets with limited visibility and large numbers of children. Junger pointed out that Decatur streets have a “hodgepodge” of limits, but speeding tickets can’t be written until a driver is at least 11 mph over the limit (areas with unstated limits are 30 mph). Junger said the city wants more speed limits with a “residential” designation, meaning tickets can be issued at a single mile over the speed limit.

Decatur Millage Rate May Drop 2 Points Due to Big Tax Digest Increase

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The AJC posted a blurb Friday afternoon that noted that due to a 19% increase in the city’s tax digest this year, Decatur Schools would likely drop the millage rate by a full point next year.

Using this calculation, it looks like a full point millage drop would result in roughly a $240/year savings for a Decatur home valued at $500,000.

Additionally, on the agenda for tonight’s City Commission meeting, Asst. City Manager Andrea Arnold is recommending that the city drop its total millage rate by a point due to a sizable 20% increase in the digest.  Ms. Arnold states that 15% of the increase is due to re-evaluations by the county and that 5% is due to new construction.

Ms. Arnold estimates the savings at $240/year for a $500,000 Decatur property.

So ultimately, the millage would lower Decatur taxes by roughly $500/year for a $500,000 property.

All of this millage news obviously comes in front of the backdrop that CSD has requested that the City Commission put a $75 million bond in front of Decatur voters this November.  That bond has been estimated to raise taxes on a $500,000 property by $680/year.

Ms. Arnold states that the city will hold the state mandated public hearings surrounding the big millage decrease, in addition to another community budget gathering in the coming weeks.

DeKalb May Raise County Taxes for Decatur and Other Cities

A post by Bill Banks over at the AJC yesterday says that DeKalb is currently planning to raise county taxes on cities in the coming fiscal year, while holding resident taxes in unincorporated DeKalb flat with the previous year.

A table below the post details the potential impact to all of DeKalb’s individual cities, with Decatur’s county taxes set to rise 32% vs. 2014, but up 5.2% vs. 2013, since the cities all saw a tax cut this past year.  Avondale residents would see a 25.2% increase vs. 2014 and a -9.2 decline vs. 2013.

According to Banks, the Commission is set to vote on the county’s budget and tax rate by the end of February 2015.

AJC Attempts to Explain the “e” in Clairemont Avenue

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The AJC’s Actual Factual Georgia feature tackled this question yesterday.

Q: Clairmont Road gains an “e” heading south toward Decatur, or Clairemont loses an “e” when heading north away from Decatur. What’s the story behind that?

The answer is incomplete at best, but it’s worth a quick look so you can bring it up at Decatur area holiday parties over the next few days!

Thanks to Chris for pointing out this feature!   He adds…

“Years ago, a local historian who researched at the DeKalb History Center (McCurdy?) told my students that the road was named after a beautiful girl named Claire.  The boys who courted her had to climb stairs to the house, “… To get to Claire, you had to climb the mountain.”  I always assumed that the Ridley house was across the street from the YMCA, a house with many steps but the AJC article says the land was at the corner of Clairemont and Garden Lane.”

Unfortunately, Sanborn Maps of Decatur only go a bit north of Williams Street (see above), so those don’t answer the question of the location of the Ridley house. However, the map does introduce another alternative spelling of the street, “Claremont Road”.

Perhaps there are just too many ways to misspell “Claire”.