Avondale Estates City Commission discusses renovations to public works buildingPhoto obtained via the city of Avondale Estates website.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale City Commission met on Wednesday, April 22, to discuss renovations to the public works building and City Hall as well as a text amendment to the general commercial zoning law.
The City Commission previously approved up to $50,000 for renovations of the public works building as an estimate for the work the city thought needed to be done.
City Manager Patrick Bryant said that the work to the public works building will now only cost $8,000 and will resolve safety, storage and environmental issues.
“When we started bringing contractors, electricians and other specialists into the building to determine the extent of the renovations necessary, we discovered that a lot of the issues that were previously brought to my attention were not issues that required any renovation,” Bryant said.
The city has identified several issues and has moved forward with repairing the garage bay door, leaks in the roof, patching some walls and purchasing a storage container for equipment and combustible material, Bryant said.
“All told, those renovations are going to cost approximately $8,000, well under the appropriated budget and well within my signing authority, so we are going to move forward with those renovations,” Bryant said.
Some concerns and confusion were mentioned about the difference in cost. Commissioner Lionel Laratte asked why the difference was high and where the gap in renovations is.
“I’d like to understand what the gap is there and how we could have been off by that magnitude,” Laratte said.
Bryant said that some issues initially brought to his attention were embellished and did not need to be renovated or repaired.
“There was a lot of misinformation disseminated about that facility not only to staff but to the board and to the public,” Bryant said. “We’re going to handle that internally but the total cost of necessary repair and renovation is not going to exceed $8,000.”
The condition of the public works building became an issue during Avondale Estates’ recent mayoral election. Former city manager Clai Brown accused Mayor Jonathan Elmore of failing to improve the city’s public works building. Elmore, who ultimately won the election, said during a mayoral forum last year that while $600,000 was budgeted for improvements under Brown’s time as city manager, the actual project was estimated to cost $1.2 million, which was not feasible.
Commissioner Brian Fisher pointed out that one problem raised was the bathroom at the public works building which does not need to be renovated.
“What I had seen at one point in time and what we thought was that there was only one bathroom,” Fisher said. “There was a male bathroom and then you had to walk through the male bathroom to get to a toilet that was for female employees. That is not true. That is not the case.”
Bryant and Mayor Elmore said that $50,000 was the best guess estimate they had at the time for the problems they thought would need to be fixed.
“The two most expensive problems we thought we had was the aforementioned bathroom issue and a replacement of the electrical system,” Bryant said. “Neither of which require any repair or renovation to, so your two high-cost items that we were led to believe needed serious work just don’t need serious work.”
Laratte thinks more than $50,000 of work needs to be done on the building, including the parking lot.
“The fact is this, what I saw there I did not consider it good working conditions for the folks that we say we value keeping our city beautiful,” he said. “If indeed we value that, then let’s put our money where our mouth is. If not, then let’s not talk about it.”
Bryant and Commissioner Lisa Shortell also added that the board needs to consider how much work it wants to put into the current public works building when the goal is to move public works to a different building.
In other business, the City Commission talked about a general commercial zoning text amendment.
The amendment would exempt property zoned general commercial from parking lot landscape requirements.
Bryant said the amendment is meant to do two things.
“One, amend the zoning ordinance for the general commercial zoning designation,” he said. “It [removes] the minimum parking stall number requirement for parcels within that zoning designation and removed the landscape requirements within a parking lot established on a parcel within that zoning designation.”
The second thing is to remove the landscape requirements for inside a parking lot from the tree ordinance, Bryant added.
The city has two landscape requirements for the general commercial zoning designation. Bryant said they are slightly different from each other and conflict with each other.
“The reason that we’re approaching the board requesting a text amendment is because there are no variance processes built into either the zoning ordinance or the tree ordinance to allow for an applicant to request a variance of any of those regulations,” Bryant said.
The motivation for the amendment is the impending sale of the Department of Juvenile Justice building and their request for additional parking, the City Commission’s meeting agenda says.
The state properties commission requires that 315 parking spaces be made available to the DJJ building and for state police vehicles to be parked there over the weekend, Bryant said.
The DJJ lot has 200 spaces and the other 115 spaces were leased from MARTA on its property near the DJJ building which satisfies the parking requirement, Bryant explained.
“However, MARTA has indicated a willingness to repurpose that land sometime in the near future,” he said.
In November 2019, the Avondale Estates Downtown Development Authority entered into a purchase-sale agreement with Forum Management, through which the DDA will sell the Juvenile Justice building to Forum.
Forum Management had to come up with another solution and was able to negotiate with the state properties commission to lower the parking space requirement from 315 to 292.
Forum is proposing to build a parking lot on land near City Hall that is currently green space and a stormwater retention ditch.
“However, in order to get the 92 spaces onto the land they were unable to comply with the requirements found for landscaping within the zoning ordinance and the requirements found for landscaping within the tree ordinance,” Bryant said.
The city also discovered a minimum parking requirement within the zoning ordinance for the general commercial zoning designation which requires one space for every 250 square feet of a building.
Bryant explained that that would require the DJJ building to have 394 spaces which would be in conflict with the city’s comprehensive plan.
“Our comprehensive plan denotes that the expectation for land around the DJJ and the Kensington MARTA station to become more of an urban core, a walkable core, more akin to our downtown,” Bryant said. “The parking requirements we currently have in the zoning ordinance, that minimum parking requirement, is in direct conflict with the stated purpose for that land area in the comprehensive plan.”
The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously voted for the amendment at its meeting on Tuesday night. The City Commission will vote on the amendment at its next meeting.
The City Commission will meet again at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 27, through a conference call. Those interested in listening can call in at 1-480-660-5310 and use code 960450.
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