Avondale Estates City Commission receives proposal for North Woods project
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale Estates City Commission met on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to discuss the city’s North Woods project and continued a conversation about changing the ordinance reading process and about yard waste.
The North Woods at Lake Avondale project will focus on improving the stormwater issues at the lake and make the area more usable and attractive. The project aims to address sedimentation, control erosion, and create accessibility, Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell said.
The city received four responses to its request for proposal for the North Wood at Lake Avondale project. A panel of city staff reviewed the applications and conducted interviews.
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They recommended the board choose the proposal that will be a joint effort between Long Engineering and Lord Aeck Sargent. The contract is for up to $103,650 for the design of the project.
The two firms have recently worked with the city on projects such as the Town Green project and the historic preservation guidelines rewrite, respectively.
To address the stormwater concerns at the lake, the scope of the project includes a biodetention stormwater facility to receive discharge off of the catch basins currently on Berkley Road. It will also include basins that will slow down stormwater and catch silt and sediment before that could get into the lake.
“This is a really important project in the ongoing Improvement of what is, I think, an iconic part of Avondale which is the lake– fixing the stormwater, fixing the North Woods, getting rid of some of the invasive plants, putting in more natural vegetation for that area, making it look nicer so that we can get to the point where we could then register the lake,” Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher said.
Powell said the North Woods area is also meant to be a recreational part of the lake and the RFP includes some options for this.
“I don’t want to mislead you (the board) into thinking that this is only an engineered solution. It is designed and intended to be accessible and a pathway system, even based on the base fit,” Powell said.
The RFP includes a minimum of two pedestrian trails that connect the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the park with the existing scout hut, the RFP states.
The plan also has alternate elements the city could add but those will be based on the budget for the project, which Powell said is about $400,000. One option could be a boardwalk that crosses over the stream and is part of the Lake Avondale Master Plan.
The commissioners, city staff and Mayor Jonathan Elmore were excited to see this proposal.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time and it really needs to be done because clearly a portion of the lake is starting to fill up with sediment,” Elmore said. “It’s a problem. It’s going to be part of a bigger stormwater solution.”
In other news, the City Commission continued the conversation about changing the meeting schedule and changing the ordinance approval process.
In an effort to be more efficient, the City Commission is considering having only two meetings per month and trying to reduce the amount of special called meetings the board has.
Under the change, the City Commission would have more time in between meetings. One suggestion was to meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.
All of the commissioners and the mayor were in favor of this idea. It would give them and residents about two weeks to work on issues and engage with each other, rather than having four days in between meetings as is currently the case.
The board is also considering changing the ordinance approval process. Currently, an ordinance has to go through a three-reading process before it can be voted on, which means it can take three months to change an ordinance.
City Manager Patrick Bryant suggested the city only do one reading of an ordinance and said Avondale Estates is one of the few cities that do a three-reading process. He added that the current process hinders city staff from conducting business.
Commissioners had concerns about this change saying it reduces the time residents can engage with the board and provide input on ordinances.
“I just feel very strongly that it reduces our transparency and our opportunity for our public to weigh in and understand ordinances and for us to understand ordinances,” Commissioner Dee Merriam said.
Commissioner Lionel Laratte said residents have echoed those same concerns and added he wants to make sure residents have enough time to hear an ordinance or amendment, hear the discussion and be able to understand it before a vote is taken.
Elmore and Fisher added that, if the change is approved, a vote on an ordinance could be deferred if at least three board members agree to do so. There could be more than one reading if needed.
Residents rarely make comments on an ordinance throughout the three-reading process and often wait until the final reading to do so, Bryant said.
“It hasn’t been staff’s observation that there would necessarily be a change in the level of public participation if we reduced the ordinance requirement,” he said.
“It’s not in any way trying to reduce the avenues of public participation. Given the observation of the participation trends we’ve seen, we think that the recommendation is sound in order to provide smoother pathways for us to make ordinance changes or introduce new ordinance material to the board in a timely fashion,” he added.
Commissioner Lisa Shortell suggested reducing the reading process to two readings with the option to vote to have only one reading by unanimous consent of the board, and most of the board seemed to like that option.
Additionally, the City Commission is discussing amended the yard waste ordinance to remove the prohibition on picking up yard waste from landscape companies. The prohibition on yard waste created by commercial tree trimmers and building contractors remains, Bryant said.
Yard waste generated by a landscape company would be able to be placed on a resident’s curb for weekly pick up by the city under this ordinance amendment.
“As we’ve stated time and time again, our primary concern is that we pick up yard waste in a timely manner because the longer it stays on the curb or in the verge, the more opportunity that waste has to creep into our stormwater system and clog up our stormwater drains and inlets, which we are currently having to unclog in mass right now. It’s kind of expensive, so that’s the balance we’re trying to strike,” Bryant said.
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The City Commission now has to decide whether or not to set a limit on the amount of yard waste that can be picked up. Bryant suggested a limit of 3 cubic yards which Elmore said would be about 19 of the 30-gallon brown paper bags from Home Depot.
Commissioners had concerns about limiting the amount of leaves that could be put out, especially during leaf season in the fall.
Shortell and Laratte were in favor of adding an extra crew and extra equipment to the public works department to be able to increase the efficiency of the yard waste service without limiting residents.
“Three cubic yards is not enough for some folks. That’s not enough. I thought the point of having the extra crew was so that we don’t have to limit folks who are putting things on their curb. I do want to limit someone who has special pick-up type items but for regular lawn maintenance, I don’t see it,” Shortell said.
The City Commission will do the first reading of the yard waste ordinance amendment on Monday, which as written eliminates the prohibition on yard waste created by landscape companies and does not set a limit on the amount of yard waste that can be picked up.
City staff will consider adding an extra crew to public works and that would be built into the 2021 budget.
The City Commission will meet on Monday, Nov. 23, at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the contract for the North Woods project and begin the reading process on the yard waste ordinance among other business. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be held virtually. Information about how to attend will be included in the agenda packet when it’s available. That packet can be accessed by clicking here.
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