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Dear Decaturish – Setting the record straight on Legacy Park

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Dear Decaturish – Setting the record straight on Legacy Park

A view of a play area at Legacy Park on South Columbia Drive in the city of Decatur on August 17, 2020. The park occupies the former site of the United Methodist Children’s Home. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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Dear Decaturish,

Along with advocacy work, the Coalition for Diverse Decatur and Coalition for Diverse DeKalb help people learn about affordable housing. Our groups also step up when misinformation about affordable housing is confusing or misleading. We do this as a service to our community.

Recently there has been such misinformation shared publicly and we’d like to offer the following in the spirit of clarification:

– The Legacy Park housing addendum was not created in the dark or in secret. The meetings were open to the public and, for the most part, well attended by those who had been keeping up with the progress on this project.

– The addendum is not a set plan but instead a guide to be used in the future when the city prepares and releases an RFP to the development community. We don’t yet know when that will happen.

– If and when affordable housing units are added at Legacy Park, the city will always retain ownership of the property. There is no land to be “given” to any developer.

– This is the right place to build affordable housing. Previous developments in the City of Decatur relied upon private developers and landowners to build some affordable homes. Because this land is and will continue to be owned by the City of Decatur, the City is able to require significant amounts of affordable homes be included in the development.

– This is not removing 8 acres of “parkland”. There is a substantial amount of existing buildings and impervious surfaces (roads, parking) on these two parts of the land. A look using Google maps makes it easy to see this.

– The proposed South Housing Village is an appropriate density for the site. Construction is expensive – the only way to make the housing affordable is to build enough homes to have economies of scale. Building more homes on less land also protects, not hurts, the environment. Because this site is very close to public transportation and substantial greenspace, it is an ideal place to build at the density proposed in the housing addendum.

– The developer will highly likely be a not-for-profit developer. They operate in a very different way compared to the developers behind the large-scale apartments which have recently been and are being built in Decatur.

– There will be, as always, public hearings and community input if and when there is a developer (or collaborative team of developers) that shows up with a specific plan. The developer will need to gain city approval before anything is built, and the city will consider impacts of the proposed development on traffic and schools before approval is given.

– We do not yet know how many homes will be built at Legacy Park, and will not know until a developer proposes an actual plan for city approval. Even so, the estimates being circulated of how many people could be living at Legacy Park are not based on fact.

The coalitions welcome anyone interested in learning more about affordable housing and the impact it has on our community’s diversity and resiliency to attend our meetings. Our meetings are on the 3rd Tuesday, via Zoom, at 6:30 pm. If you desire the link to attend, please send an email to pcuffey@gmail.com (Phil Cuffey – one of our co-chairs).

– Paula Collins, Phil Cuffey, Emily Halevy, Rev. David Lewicki and Dr. Sara Patenaude

 

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