Decatur City Commission Denies Subdivision of Oakhurst Dog Park

dogparksub

After hearing nearly 50 minutes of comment from the petitioners and the community, the Decatur City Commission unanimously denied the subdivision of the Oakhurst Dog Park last night.  (You can view the video HERE)

Before voting, Mayor Jim Baskett made the following statement…

“We have always been very protective of personal property rights on this commission. I personally have been very protective of personal property rights as long as I’ve been on this commission. So we have to have very good and very strong reasons to deny petitioner’s use of their property in any kind of way.  In this particular instance we’re being asked – or some people have thought – that we had the power to keep the Boys & Girls Club from selling the property.  We don’t.  Or that we had the power that we could do this or that or the other.  But we don’t.”

“The question it comes down to is ‘Do we subdivide this property based on four simple standards?’  And I look at the standards as a suitable use of the property in comparison to the adjacent properties. Is it adversely affecting the use of adjacent properties or even their future uses?  Does it cause a problem with the streets or transportation facilities, utilities or schools?  In general, does it have an impact on the public health, safety, morality or the general welfare of the community?”

“And when I think about those beautiful trees and when I think about the use of this property for the last – at least -100 years.  [Indiscernible] This is a public service really that the Boys and Girls Club offers and that’s why it was sold at the time it was sold and the way it was sold.  Because it would continue to be a public service use.  And when I look at the way it’s been used and I look at what could be lost here, the potential loss here, with just so little to gain, I can’t personally come to any other conclusion that this not in the general best welfare of our community at large.”

“Public safety may be a factor here with traffic.  Public Health.  But the main thing is the general welfare of our community.  I just don’t believe that a subdivision of that property is good for the general welfare of our community.  That just where I come down.”

Following the Mayor’s remarks, Commissioner Garrett moved for denial, which was seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Cunningham.  As stated above, the final vote was unanimous.

Decatur’s New Elementary School Would House K-5

After being reported late last month that Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards believed the school system needed a new school on the northside of town by 2018, folks openly wondered whether it would be K-3 or K-5 school.

Here’s an answer, found at the end of a new AJC blurb on the Superintendent’s plan to ask the Decatur School Board this evening to approve the bond that would fund the Phase II renovations to Renfroe and Decatur High, along with this new elementary school…

Edwards believes a new K-5 building—K-3 one side and a 4/5 school on the other—would cost about $25 million. She said she’d like to see the new school open by 2017-18.

The bond still needs to go before the Decatur City Commission.  Mayor Jim Baskett has already said that the city will pursue a bond referendum for the school system this Spring.

Superintendent: Decatur Needs a New School By 2018 – And Needs to Pay For It

Start the clock.

According to one blurb on the AJC yesterday, Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards is saying that City Schools of Decatur will need another k-5 building on the north side of the city to house students by the 2018-2019 school year.  And ultimately, as has been recently reported, the school system could require up to 2 new buildings to accommodate growing enrollment.

The post even notes that Dr. Edwards called DeKalb CEO Lee May about potentially available space in DeKalb County office buildings, after he recently unveiled a plan to move many county employees to a new development along Memorial Drive in unincorporated DeKalb.

But of course, building new schools isn’t cheap.  The extensive renovations already planned for Decatur High School and Renfroe Middle School have been planned to be paid for by issuing Certificates of Participation as part of a lease purchase agreement with Georgia Municipal Association.  Now with new construction on the horizon, the City is making good on its statement to revisit a bond referendum for Decatur Schools, back when it postponed a vote back in mid-2013.

The AJC reports that during the Mayor’s State of the City Address on Tuesday, Mayor Jim Baskett said that the city would revisit issuing a bond referendum for the school system this Spring.  The Superintendent told the AJC that the price tag on the bond would be around $80 million, notably higher than the $59.6 million bond referendum that the city rejected back in 2013.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Mayor Baskett Remarks on “Downtown DeKalb” Proposal

As we reported via the AJC yesterday, DeKalb’s CEO Lee May gave his State of the County today where he proposed a plan to move some DeKalb County functions out of downtown Decatur and to a new development called “Downtown DeKalb” along Memorial Drive near the Kensington MARTA Station.  (You can read the relevant excerpt of the speech over on Decaturish)

We had contacted Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett yesterday for any comment, but he told us he wanted to wait and hear the CEO’s remarks before responding.

Today, after listening to the CEO’s speech, Mayor Baskett remarked to DM that the proposal to move some county functions out of Decatur is inline with other conversations with the county in recent years.

“It doesn’t seem to be a really new initiative in that several years ago we were told that the county was moving as much operations to Memorial Dr. as possible, thus the sale of the Callaway building.”

He also clarified that “Decatur remains the county seat and some operations will remain” in the city.  As has been mentioned previously, this would include the County Courthouse, which must be located in the county seat by law.

Reflecting on the impact on Decatur, the Mayor noted that “moving some properties onto the tax rolls is probably not a bad thing.”

Photo courtesy of DecaturNext

Decatur City Commission Unanimously Passes Revised Tree Ordinance

The Decatur City Commission passed the revised tree ordinance in a 5-0 vote last night.  The ordinance promotes a “no net loss” of the city’s current 45% canopy coverage.  

Under the new ordinance, residents will be allowed to remove up to three 6-inch diameter trees every 18 months without incurring a penalty, though owners will be required to file a free informational permit so the city can track canopy changes.  It’s a complicated ordinance, but highlights include a “no net loss” requirement is triggered when a land disturbance permit is filed and the replanting requirement is triggered when impervious coverage is increased on a lot by 15% or more. 

In remarks prior to the vote, Mayor Baskett noted the fact that the City Commission meeting room was less crowded then earlier this year when the first version came up for a vote.  “The fact that this room is not full of people tonight may be construed as we wore people down. It may be construed, as the fact, that we’ve addressed a lot of the issues people had and they didn’t feel as strongly about it.”  He continued, “We’re not going to make people happy that wanted to see something much, much stronger.  We’re not going to make people happy who want government to stay out of their lives.”  He also reiterated his personal experience with a border tree nearly being cut down adjacent to his property and his desire for revised border tree regulation.

Commissioner Patti Garrett noted that she believed they had addressed many of residents’ concerns, including that there’s no longer a canopy goal of 55% for every lot when something is done to a property, there are now incentives to replant, and there is double canopy coverage for specimen trees.

Commissioner Scott Drake closed out the commission’s comments on the subject saying that “we need to trust our neighbors, and talk to our neighbors.  Tell them what we’re doing, ask them what their input is.”  He continued “It is a confusing new ordinance, so there’s going to be an education that needs to happen.  I think the arborist is going to be busy answering questions and trying to put this in a digestible package for people who are looking to do projects.”  He went on to express hope that the arborist would continually flag any inefficiencies in the process and that the commission would make changes in the future if issues were identified.  The Mayor concurred on this point.

Decaturish also has a good article on the topic this morning.  You can review the full ordinance HERE and you can view this portion of the Commission meeting HERE (click on Item V and VI A)

The effective date of the revised ordinance is Monday, July 7th.

Mayor’s State of the City Address Tomorrow Night

This graphic sent around by the city provides the necessary info…

SOTC

 

Decatur City Commission Agrees to Consider Demolition/Tree Removal Moratorium at Next Meeting

At last night’s meeting, the Decatur City Commission agreed to add an agenda item to the October 22nd meeting that would entertain a moratorium on single family home demolition and tree removal (in excess of 12-inches at chest height) from October 22nd to January 24th.

The mayor pointed out that the city commission doesn’t normally give so much notice on an action item, but “…we did it tonight because this is stepping way out of our normal range of options.”  He also noted that the moratorium was needed to limit an extended flurry of activity surrounding these two actions between now and the first stage of the Unified Development Code is set to be completed in January.

City Manager Peggy Merriss said that the details of the moratorium would be available for viewing by the end of the week.

Proponents on both sides of the issue showed up to state their positions on the subject.  Decaturish has a good report of how things played out.