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Avondale Estates City Commission begins discussion on non-discrimination ordinance

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Avondale Estates City Commission begins discussion on non-discrimination ordinance

Photo obtained via the city of Avondale Estates website.
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This story has been updated. 

By Zoe Seiler, contributor 

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission began discussing a non-discrimination ordinance at its work session on Wednesday, July 15. The commission also discussed issues related to the sanitation fees and the potential abandonment of a right of way for an alley.

The City Commission began discussions of adopting a non-discrimination ordinance. City Attorney Stephen Quinn and City Manager Patrick Bryant started the conversation so the board can start to think about what to include in the ordinance.

Essentially the City Commission would state a zero-tolerance for discrimination, Bryant said. Other cities in DeKalb County, such as Decatur and Clarkston, have passed non-discrimination ordinances.

“The questions for the (City Commission) are: who do you want to protect from discrimination? In what context? And basically, who are you going to regulate and how will you enforce it,” Quinn said.

Quinn said that the Clarkston ordinance, which he wrote, provides broad protections but was driven by discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Some options include protecting individuals when it comes to employment or housing. Quinn also asked the City Commission if they would want to stop at regulating city employees or also regulate businesses.

Quinn said that this is the beginning of the conversation for the board to decide what they want the ordinance to say so he can write an ordinance for Avondale Estates.

“I think this could be an opportunity to tie things like this to our mission statement if we choose,” Mayor Jonathan Elmore said. “I would like to see us have a very consistent  approach in everything we do in some guiding principles.”

The City Commission also discussed amending the sanitation ordinance to update the definition of a business unit.

In February, the board adopted a new sanitation ordinance that set a new fee structure for residential and commercial properties. Businesses now pay a base fee of $895 plus $190 for each additional container needed. The goal was to make the sanitation fees for businesses more equitable by assessing the fee on a usage or per can basis, Decaturish previously reported.

The ordinance currently defines a business unit as an entity with a business license in a commercially zoned area, Deputy City Manager Paul Hanebuth said. Bryant added that under the ordinance all business units must pay a sanitation fee.

City staff is proposing an amendment to that definition to account for coworking spaces. Hanebuth explained that one example that has come up is a coworking space with eight therapists sharing the building.

“Eight psychotherapists using a room for one hour a day each are going to generate about the same amount of sanitation waste as one psychotherapist using the room for eight hours so it doesn’t seem reasonable that the first group will be charged eight times as much,” Hanebuth said.

Edwin Jarvis is another example of a coworking space.

Bryant further clarified that the coworking definition does not apply to businesses that have separate storefronts. For example, Little Tree Art Studios has nine separate storefronts which are considered separate businesses that share one building. It is not considered a coworking space, Bryant said.

“This would be for persons who are sharing a singular space and rotating throughout,” Bryant said.

In other news, the City Commission is considering a request for the abandonment of an alleyway on Franklin Street. The building at 2858 Franklin Street extends into an alleyway that is owned by the city.

The alleyway is across the street from the Pine Street Market and also near Little Tree Art Studio.

 

W.T. Mann, LLC, owns the building and is in the process of selling it to Bruce Meller, who owns a construction company. In order to sell the building and get a title, the city has to abandon the right of way of the alleyway that’s underneath the building, Bryant said.

City Attorney Stephen Quinn said the city can determine if it wants to abandon a portion of the right of way and not necessarily abandon the whole alleyway.

If the right of way is abandoned, the Meller would have the opportunity to purchase the property from the city, Bryant explained.

The city does retain the option to seek an easement after the property is sold, Bryant said.

Commissioners Lisa Shortell and Dee Merriam shared concerns about abandoning the property and would like to retain the alleyway as public property. Both commissioners and Elmore said the alleyways could create opportunities for future unique use, although the city is years away from doing a project with the alleys.

“I don’t want any future public access to be taken away by our actions,” Shortell said.

Elmore added that he wants to have a mechanism in place for an easement or another solution to retain the possibility of a continuous alley in the future.

The other option the city would have is to deny the abandonment request and purchase the property if the sale to Meller does not go through, Bryant said.

“The issue here though is if the abandonment isn’t granted then the building cannot sell. The former occupant of the building has vacated the premises,”Bryant said. “Our only option at that point to be able to maintain that alleyway without having a vacant building sitting on that property would be to purchase it ourselves. We don’t currently have funds in order to make that purchase. Staff’s procedure to try to preserve that right of way would be to have a sale contingent upon the establishment of an easement.”

Merriam and Shortell also suggested working with the Downtown Development Authority on this issue in order to work with W.T. Mann, LLC, and Meller to find a solution.

The City Commission will meet for its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 20, through Zoom.

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