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City Commission discusses inclusionary zoning, face mask ordinance, and Black Lives Matter art

Decatur

City Commission discusses inclusionary zoning, face mask ordinance, and Black Lives Matter art

Decatur City Hall
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Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission at its July 20 meeting discussed affordable housing, amending the city’s face mask ordinance, school funding, safe sidewalks, and more. 

The City Commission updated its Unified Development Ordinance to include mandatory inclusionary zoning, which aims to increase the amount of affordable inclusionary housing in the city. The update was unanimously approved.

Planning & Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill presented the Inclusionary Housing Plan, which was adapted from the Atlanta plan to specifically fit the needs of Decatur.

The ordinance is city-wide and says that every neighborhood has a role to play in providing affordable housing, rather than placing it in a specific geographical location. The ordinance applies to any residential development that creates five or more new residential dwelling units, no matter the building type, meaning it applies to housing types such as major subdivisions and new townhome developments. Ten percent of the total number of dwelling units would need to be set aside for inclusionary housing.

There are income requirements to qualify for affordable housing. Rental units would be made available to households making less than 80% of the area median income (currently $82,700 for a family of four), while owner-occupied units would be made available to households making less than 120% of the area median income. The requirements would be updated annually.

Some concerns were raised during the public comments section about the ordinance’s plans for increased density and reduction of parking, which may not fit with property managers’ goals, especially in a city like Decatur which has little available land. The density bonus and reduced parking minimums are incentives being offered by the city. These are automatically available to developers building the affordable units on-site, but not to developers who pay into the affordable housing trust fund or fund off-site affordable units.” 

The Decatur City Commission amended its ordinance requiring face coverings in Decatur establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was initially passed on July 10. 

The requirements of the ordinance were expanded to include outdoor public places where it is not feasible to maintain 6 feet of distance from people outside your household.

City Manager Andrea Arnold said these amendments made the ordinance more consistent with Dekalb County’s July 14 ordinance, and similar to ordinances in neighboring jurisdictions. 

Commissioner George Dusenbury said although houses of worship in Decatur have been following guidelines, he does not believe houses of worship should be exempt. Arnold verified that the 20 houses of worship they surveyed were continuing to only hold virtual services. One place of worship had held an in-person service but decided to continue with virtual services.

In other business:

– An ordinance was approved to levy the School Fund Millage Rate at 20.25 mills. 

– A motion was approved for the City of Decatur to enter into an agreement with the business Chandlerthinks for the purpose of communications audit and strategy services for the city.

– A 12-month moratorium on property annexations was approved. Currently, the service boundaries of the City of Decatur extend to the service boundaries of the City Schools of Decatur, meaning school-aged children residing on annexed property are permitted to attend City Schools of Decatur. The moratorium was recommended by the school board of the City Schools of Decatur, to allow them more time to work through the complex concerns surrounding annexations. The city has not been aggressive with recent annexation efforts and does not have plans for significant annexations for the near future.

– A request was approved to enter into an agreement with Georgia Safe Sidewalks to allocate $50,000 for sidewalk repair. The scope of work includes repairs on 16 different streets and four city parks. Here are the sidewalks that will be repaired. 

– A public request was made for a painted “Black Lives Matter” art installment along North McDonough Street.

“We are able to demonstrate our support for diversity in a number of different ways, we’ve done so with the removal of the Confederate monument, and this is, especially with the location of it, an opportunity to share that message, thinking at the time that students would be going back to school, with the intent to support the young kids of Decatur High School,” said Commissioner Lesa Mayer. “We have ladies and gentlemen who may have felt that they needed the encouragement going back into the building after some racist remarks had been made. Whether or not everyone necessarily agrees with the style or even the location, I think that’s certainly up for discussion, but I know this specific location was requested for its proximity to City Hall and the high school.” 

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers agreed it was important to make a statement said he would like to get the Decatur Arts Alliance on board “to see how quickly we could turn this from a concept into a project.”

Commissioner Dusenbury said it was important to “listen to the voices that are advocating most for this.”

“It’s about being responsive and having an installation that’s reflective of what the community is expressing,” said Commissioner Kelly Walsh. “I’m all in.”

The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights is also advocating for the art installation and for the community’s ongoing involvement in the project, should it be approved. 

City Manager Arnold proposed that the public works department create the outline of the art along North McDonough and the street be closed off for the artistic portion of the display. “It should be the city’s role to get out of the way and allow this to happen … I want this to be much more of a bottom-up effort as opposed to the government itself dictating what exactly is going to happen. Multiple parties can come together and collaborate on this.” 

 

– David Junger addressed the city’s COVID-19 reopening strategy and what guides the city in its decisions.

“We continue to monitor the safe operation [of tennis courts and swimming pools],” said Junger. “We have developed a three-phase plan, currently we’re in zero still, but to move into Phase One we’re going to be looking at data that is available from reliable sources, such as decreases in newly-identified COVID cases in Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Fulton [counties]. Phase One is a downward trajectory or near zero-percent of positive documented cases [in Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Fulton counties] over a 14-day period, Phase Two is an additional 14 days, and Phase 3 is an additional 14 days after that.” 

The plan also relies on the amount of ICU beds available and the reproduction rate (R0), which would ideally be below 1. Currently the R0 is 1.07, according to Junger. 

Mayor Patti Garrett addressed the City Commission’s plan to reach a higher census completion rate in Decatur and stated that the city would be creating a census tract challenge between July 20 and August 20. The ultimate goal for Decatur’s census completion is 90%. 

The commissioners also addressed the passing of Congressman John Lewis and minister C.T. Vivian, civil rights figures. 

“As a native Atlantan, I got into government because of Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian and the impeccable John Lewis,” said Mayor Pro Tem Powers. “Rest assured that their efforts will not go unnoticed and we will continue to uphold those values every day.”

Commissioner Dusenbury, who worked with John Lewis for 10 years, recounted Lewis’ notable accomplishments and “extraordinary life.”

“At the heart of everything was that in every human there is a spark of divinity, and too often we repress people, we repress that … He just felt that he had a moral mandate to do everything he could to ensure that the spark of divinity in each of us was recognized. … We were fortunate to have him in our community and fortunate to have him as our representative,” Dusenbury said. “He was an optimist, he believed in this ongoing journey, but he was concerned oftentimes that we were too quiet, that we were willing to sit back and not make a stand. And throughout 2020, all of this horrible stuff we’ve had to go through, the waking up of the young people, the depth of understanding about racial injustice … made him happy. We have a mission and a mandate to carry on his work.”

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