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Decatur plans to keep and amend mask ordinance, says it is consistent with governor’s order

COVID-19 Decatur Metro ATL Trending

Decatur plans to keep and amend mask ordinance, says it is consistent with governor’s order

FILE PHOTO: Amy Butner’s protective mask comes with a message. In Korean it reads “Lets Live together.” Downtown Decatur, April 26, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

UPDATE: The City Commission unanimously approved the items mentioned in this article. Here is our earlier story …

Decatur, GA — Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold says the city’s mask ordinance isn’t in conflict with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order and the city plans to amend it to require masking in outdoor public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.

Commissioners at their July 20 regular meeting will consider that amendment as well as an inclusionary zoning ordinance intended to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city. Other items on the agenda include a moratorium on annexations and an audit of the city’s communications strategy.

The City Commission meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with a work session to discuss “bond refinancing opportunities.” The regular meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Both meetings will be streamed via this link: https://www.decaturga.com/citycommission/page/streaming-video

People can also view and participate in the meeting via Zoom. For more information on how to do that, click here.

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase at a rapid pace, Gov. Brian Kemp has clashed with cities like Decatur that have adopted mask ordinances. Kemp is encouraging mask use while simultaneously saying cities can’t require it by law.

On July 16, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta over the city’s mask requirement, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The lawsuit was filed a day after Kemp issued an executive order that prohibited cities from requiring people to wear face masks to curb the spread of the virus.

The City Commission on July 10 passed an ordinance requiring the use of face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance applies to the city limits of Decatur and requires the wearing of a face covering or a mask while in a public place.

The City Commission on July 20 will consider an amendment that “expands this requirement to outdoor public places when it is not feasible to maintain at least six feet of physical distance from another person who is not part of the same household.”

The amendment is meant to make the city’s ordinance consistent with DeKalb County’s.

In her memo to the City Commission, Arnold said Decatur’s ordinance isn’t in conflict with the governor’s order.

“The city’s current and proposed ordinances are consistent with the CDC guidelines, as well as consistent with the governor’s order, including the required adherence to CDC guidelines,” Arnold wrote. “Therefore, the provision in the governor’s July 15 order that ordinances requiring face coverings are ‘suspended to the extent that they are more restrictive than this executive order’ is not applicable.”

To see Arnold’s full memo, click here.

The other big item on the agenda is an inclusionary zoning ordinance. The Decatur Planning Commission last week unanimously approved the adoption of changes to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

The changes would require all new residential developments of at least five new dwelling units to set aside 10 percent of the units for households making less than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) for rental units, or buyers making less than 120 percent of the AMI for owner-occupied units.

To learn more about the ordinance, click here.

In other business:

– City Schools of Decatur is asking the city to consider a 12-month moratorium on annexations.

“Currently, when the city annexes property into the city, school-age children residing on the annexed property are eligible to attend the City Schools of Decatur,” a memo from Arnold to the City Commission says. “Simply, the service boundaries of the city of Decatur are coterminous with the service boundaries of the city schools. Over the past couple of years, there have been efforts by the DeKalb delegation to pass local legislation to separate these boundaries so that annexations by the city would not extend the service boundaries of the city schools. This would result in some residents living in the city but not having access to the City Schools of Decatur. As [School Board Chair Lewis] Jones explains in the attached letter, members of the Board of Education have been discussing financial impacts of any future annexations on the DeKalb County school system with the DeKalb school board. In order to allow time for the two boards to work through this complex negotiation, the Board of Education has asked the city to suspend annexations for the next 12 months.”

City Schools of Decatur ticked off members of Decatur’s legislative delegation by hiring a lobbyist to convince Gov. Kemp to veto a bill that would’ve resolved this issue. The bill would have separated municipal annexations and school system annexations. It required a separate vote and negotiation between school systems to include compensation for the transfer of school buildings among other things. It was introduced to provide a legislative resolution to a lawsuit brought by the DeKalb County School District to halt the annexation of the area around Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control. Senate Bill 53 was the product of a study conducted by state legislators which was prompted by that lawsuit.

City Schools of Decatur called SB 53 “detrimental and unconstitutional,” and said that, “Nobody from [the DeKalb County School Board] or the DeKalb legislative delegation ever contacted CSD about the bill. Having been excluded from the discussions leading to its development, we were left with no option but to request a veto.”

– The City Commission will consider awarding a $34,000 contract to Chandlerthinks to audit the city’s communications strategy and help the city develop a new one.

The city communicates through various platforms, including several blogs and websites as well as the Decatur Focus newsletter.

“While we are present in all of these spaces, we want to make sure that our communications efforts are effective and we are engaging with as many of our stakeholders as possible,” a memo from Communications Manager Renae Madison says.

– The City Commission will consider executing a $50,000 agreement with Georgia Safe Sidewalks to repair some fo the city’s sidewalks.

The sidewalks that will be repaired are:

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