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Avondale Estates City Commission extends contract for survey of historic homes

Avondale Estates Business

Avondale Estates City Commission extends contract for survey of historic homes

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By Zoe Seiler, contributor

Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale Estates City Commission at its Sept. 29 regular meeting approved a contract extension with Lord Aeck Sargent to conduct a survey of historic residential properties.

Lord Aeck Sargent previously worked with the city to rewrite the historic preservation guidelines. The contract is for up to $16,000 to conduct the survey of the tier one and tier two homes in the historic district.

The previous guidelines had a tier system for categorizing homes and specifying the changes homeowners could make to their homes. The biggest revision to the new guidelines is combining the tier one and tier two designations, Decaturish previously reported.

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There will now be two categories– preservation and compatible– instead of three as the tier one and tier two categories were almost identical and were combined, Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell said at the Aug. 19 work session.

“If you look at those comparison charts, you’ll see that we found that some of the expectations in the tier one were not necessary, so we downgraded some of those. Then we added a restriction around dormers for tier two when we combined the two categories,” Powell said.

The city will be conducting the survey before the new guidelines are launched to verify and justify the most appropriate category for the contributing homes in the historic district, an HPC guidelines FAQ says.

“The reevaluation process is also an opportunity to build a more robust database of what makes these historic homes historic for future decision-makers,” the FAQ says.

Lord Aeck Sargent will work to categorize each home through objective measures based on historic criteria, Powell said in an email.

“All property owners have an appeals process at their disposal to ask the HPC (Historic Preservation Commission) to make a different decision if they feel that their designation was made in error,” Powell said.

In order to provide more information about historic homes, the survey will include updated photographs of the tier one and tier two homes, added explanation of any change to a home’s category, more description of what makes a property historic and the proposal includes a list of questions about the homes and historic district, Powell said at the Sept. 16 work session.

The proposal includes three meetings with city staff and one public meeting, but additional public meetings could be scheduled.

Commissioner Dee Merriam expressed concerns about older residents in the historic district not being aware of what’s going on with their homes. These residents aren’t as likely to use email and are bombarded with junk mail, she noted.

City Manager Patrick Bryant said the city has come up with a communications plan to notify homeowners in the historic district.

“We plan to mail a postcard to every household in the Historic District affected,” Bryant said. “We will invite them to a kickoff meeting that we will hold via Zoom. We will also post that information to the city’s website, in the city’s e-news and use our social media platforms to disseminate. Following that (kick off) meeting, we’ll post the recording of it on our website, and also include the link to it in our e-news and social media platforms.”

The city will then have a public meeting with the City Commission to present the results of the survey. The city will also post the evaluation report on the website as well as link to it in the city’s e-news and social media, Bryant said.

Powell said at the Sept. 16 work session that the survey will not be a door-to-door process.

“They will be in the streets. They will walk the area. They will take the photos,” Powell said. “They will document what they’re seeing, but they’re not going to knock on doors.”

In other news:

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– The City Commission also approved an amendment to the new sanitation ordinance that was adopted in February. The ordinance set a new fee structure for residential and commercial properties.

It currently defines a business unit as an entity with a business license in a commercially zoned area, Deputy City Manager Paul Hanebuth said at the July 15 work session. Bryant added that under the ordinance all business units must pay a sanitation fee.

The City Commission adopted an amendment to that definition to account for coworking spaces.

Businesses pay a base fee of $895 plus $190 for each additional container needed. The amendment keeps each person who uses the coworking space from having to pay the sanitation fee, Bryant said.

An example of a coworking space is eight therapists who share a building, Deputy City Manager Paul Hanebuth previously explained.

“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 previously said.

Edwin Jarvis is another example of a coworking space.

Bryant clarified at the July 15 work session 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 previously said.

– Additionally, Avondale Estates entered into an intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County as the county plans to share money it received from the CARES Act with the cities in the county. Avondale Estates will receive about $355,000.

That money will be used to reimburse the city for purchasing personal protective equipment, for renting out another building to hold municipal court, for installing sanitary payment windows in City Hall, for public safety patrol, and to reimburse COVID-related administrative leave for city staff, Bryant said.

The City Commission will meet again on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 5:30 p.m. for a work session.

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