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Builders, residents ready to throw down over tear downs

Decaturish updates

Builders, residents ready to throw down over tear downs


Builders in Decatur want the City Commission to step back from a plan to place a temporary halt on new permits for single-family tear downs and tree removal.

Residents in favor of the idea say they want to protect the city’s tree canopy. They also support temporarily suspending new permits for tear-downs.

Both sides showed up in force at the Oct. 7 City Commission. City Commissioners agreed to put the proposed moratorium on the Oct. 21 meeting agenda.

Mayor Jim Baskett spent the public comments portion of the meeting refereeing the speakers. He told speakers that the City Commission doesn’t ordinarily talk about an ordinance two weeks before considering it, but “We did it tonight because this is stepping way out of our normal range of options.”

“We would ordinarily never discuss a moratorium of this nature,” he said. 

If enacted, the moratorium would go into effect Oct. 22 and be in place until Jan. 24. That will give a city consultant enough time to provide a report as part of creating a Unified Development Ordinance for the city. The move is intended to “preserve the status quo” so the consultant and staff can “Identify the primary areas of concern from the community” about tree removal and tear downs.

Builders who spoke at the meeting warned the city will receive a flurry of new permit application between now and the next meeting on Oct. 21.

Arlene Dean, with Arlene Dean Quality Homes, said that the idea will make it impossible for her to close one of her pending deals with a local home owner.

“I’m in the process of purchasing a house from an elderly couple who don’t want to pay their taxes in November,” she said. “They can’t afford it.”

Decatur Heights resident Babs Fiorentino said there are five tear-downs on her street. She was unconvinced by the concerns the builders and home buyers raised at the meeting.

“I don’t believe these people,” she said. “There’s nowhere else to go in this area. … I don’t believe your threats.”

City Manger Peggy Merriss said in her notes to commissioners that the city has received numerous “concerns” about developers tearing down single-family homes.

As property values increase in the city, the taxes are becoming too expensive for some older residents. They are selling to developers who knock down older houses, replacing them with bigger, more expensive ones.

Baskett said the city needs the moratorium so it can get a clearer picture of where things stand.

“It seems appropriate to us to try to hold things together while we approach that,” Baskett said. “There will likely be a flurry of activity. Better for two weeks than two months.”