Decatur High Offers Students Associate Degree Option

A resident sends along this note that went out from the Decatur Career Academy to parents of some Decatur High students…

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Congratulations! Your high schooler may be eligible to earn a high school diploma and a college degree at the same time. Through a unique partnership with the Decatur City Schools and DeVry University, Georgia, eligible Decatur City School high school students, who have successfully completed their 9th and 10th grade courses by June 1, 2011, can do just that.

The DeVry University Advantage Academy is an innovative program. At the end of four years of high school, students may graduate with a Decatur High School diploma and a DeVry University associate degree in Health Information Technology. The DeVry University Georgia Advantage Academy begins August 2, 2011.

A Few Benefits of the DeVry University Advantage Academy

· Courses are taught by certified Decatur High School teachers and credentialed, industry-experienced DeVry University professors at Decatur High School.

· Students and their families are not responsible for paying the cost of tuition, books and charges for eligible courses.

· Support services include library and lab access, career counseling, mentoring, tutoring and membership in professional student organizations for participating students.

Is DeVry Property a Potential Burden or Cash Cow?

As the mayor has noted on multiple occasions in the past, the city of Decatur long looked at annexation as one of the only ways of decreasing the property tax burden on residents.  By bringing more commercial property inside the city limits, the city and commission hoped to bring down the 85% of city revenue currently shouldered by residential property owners.

However, annexation was never seriously considered by the city until this past year.  And its subsequent failure, due in part to inaccurate estimates of student costs and a struggling economy has colored all future conversations on the topic.

With the recent announcement that DeVry University has requested to have it’s massive, old DeKalb Industrial campus annexed into the city, many of the old concerns about additional burdens on the city bubbled to the surface again.  Specifically, concerning the cost of students and the over-crowding of schools.

But do all of the same concerns about student costs and over-crowding of schools still apply?  The short answer from the city, who actively pursued DeVry to seek annexation, is “No.”

According to city planner Amanda Thompson, even if a developer wanted to shun the new mixed-use zoning laid upon the district and simply build a bunch of single-detached townhomes (the most family-friendly thing allowed by zoning), the city wouldn’t allow it.

DeVry has expressed in their application that they want to build a mixed use development and that is the intent laid out in this zoning district. The city’s development department would not accept a single use site plan for the property. Could the developer argue with us in court? Yes, but not successfully since DeVry’s application would be part of their conditional approval of the regulating site plan.

So, while not completely outlawed, it seems like the construction of a family-magnet single-family home community is near impossible.  But what about families living in apartments and condos in the new mixed-use district?

Peggy Merriss’ statement to the CSD school board on Tuesday, reported by InDecatur, addresses this concern… Continue reading “Is DeVry Property a Potential Burden or Cash Cow?”

DeVry Annexation Meeting Wednesday

Fred Boykin remind us that the DeVry annexation meeting is this coming Wednesday and sends along the letter again with the announcement.

Devry University is notifying all adjoining property owners within approximately one quarter mile of a proposed annexation and zoning request for the DeVry University campus located on North Arcadia Avenue.

There will be a public meeting on Wednesday, June 24, 2009, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the DeVry University campus.  Please enter the building from the southern parking lot.  Signs will be posted to direct you to the meeting room. Please feel free to attend this meeting should you have any questions regarding this request.  If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to obtain information, please feel free to contact Laurel David at 404-965-3680.

In Fred’s words, “[DeVry] makes Midway look like small change.”

In my opinion, there are two reasons why an 11 parcel Midway annexation has so far drawn more comments than the much larger DeVry “mixed-use” parcel.  One is the palpable concern about grade school enrollment among the general population.  Two is that the DeVry parcel is currently without a site plan and therefore we do not yet know the potential impact, unlike the family-magnet, detached housing on Midway.

All we know about DeVry thus far is that they’ve decided they want to be annexed by Decatur and that they want the property rezoned as “mixed-use.”  And while mixed-use implies a greater degree of density in comparison to a mind-nubbing subdivision, there is still pretty good potential for some single-family, detached homes. (see page 49 of this document for the mixed-use ordinance)

However, a lack of detail shouldn’t mean that we don’t plan ahead.  Nothing is more hopeless than complaining about something after the fact.  Once we accept DeVry into the fold and approve their zoning change, we’re essentially saying, yes you can develop according to our new zoning ordinance.  So, we need to perform our due diligence now, when we can still have a say in the matter.

I think many friends of smart-growth would agree that Decatur would be better off with a “town-center” plan on DeVry, instead of another subdivision or office park.  However, if the past is any indication, school enrollments have a way of taking over every annexation conversation.  Therefore, what we should determine right off the bat is how much wiggle room the new CSD reconfiguration plan will provide the city.  Can we accommodate projected student growth from within the existing city limits and new enrollments from a DeVry annexation plan?

There’s a lot more to consider here than just student enrollment: taxes, development patterns, etc.  However, knowing these key enrollment figures upfront will ultimately make it easier to get over the initial CSD hurdle, before moving onto other important  – but less politically potent – considerations.

DeVry To Request Annexation/Rezoning

Just when you thought you couldn’t read another word about annexation without losing your local, organic, free-range lunch, Dave at InDecatur posts a letter sent to him that seems to indicate that the DeVry folks have had a change of heart and now want to be rezoned and annexed into Decatur.

I’ve pieced together this story as it’s developed but honestly can’t remember where I read/heard any of it anymore.  But here’s what I remember…

Essentially, when DeVry first moved it’s campus into the “Birdcalls From Hell” building downtown, the owners didn’t have any interest in having the old campus, which abuts the Decatur city limits, annexed because of high taxes and blah blah blah.

However, the city of Decatur has been very interested in bringing this property into the city limits so it has some control over it’s redevelopment, not to mention tax revenue for a new mixed-use district, so they courted DeVry with seductive calls of  “Yes, you may have to pay more in taxes BUT you’ll receive a lot more technical assistance from your local government if you become part of Decatur.”

And it looks like DeVry finally came around.  In this economy, developing and/or selling that piece of property must be a daunting task.

I’m hoping that all of my assumptions about Dave’s letter are correct, because honestly it is kind of vague on details.

Lyn, I’d really appreciate it if you can confirm/deny this.