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Decatur City Commission approves update to Storm Water Master Plan


Decatur City Commission approves update to Storm Water Master Plan

Photo obtained via the city of Decatur

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission approved an update to the Storm Water Master Plan, added a clean energy plan to the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget proposal, and heard requests and petitions from a number of climate activists at their Dec. 7 meeting.

The Storm Water Master Plan is “focused on improving how the City manages its stormwater to address and prevent flooding and improve water quality in the city’s streams,” according to the Master Plan document. “This plan evaluates stormwater concerns across the City and prioritizes solutions to address these concerns. The major goals of this plan are to improve stormwater management in Decatur’s neighborhoods, public spaces, and rights-of-way, to mitigate environmental impacts from urban runoff, and to improve the water quality in the City’s watersheds.”

The 2020 update to the Storm Water Master Plan, which was last updated in 2004, will improve stormwater management in residential areas of Decatur. It will also implement “new drainage requirements for all developments, and policies for use of green infrastructure to control the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.”

The update was created over two years by reviewing existing data, conducting field surveys, and receiving community input. 

An estimated $38 million needed to fund this work will be generated by tax changes using a tiered stormwater utility fee system. The recommended fee structure includes tiers that set the utility fees on a parcel’s level of stormwater impacts (determined by impervious coverage) for residential properties. The current stormwater utility fee is $100 for all residential properties.

The tier system is as follows:

Tier 1 — 0 to 2,499 square feet (0.4 ERU) — $114/year

Tier 2 — 2,500 to 3,999 square feet (0.7 ERU)–  $200/year

Tier 3 — 4,000 to 4,999 square feet (1.0 ERU) — $285/year

Tier 4 — 5,000 square feet or more (1.4 ERU) — $399/year

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers explained, “As part of adopting the ordinance, we adopted the [plan] update and adopted the ordinances with them but we did not formalize the fee structure. There’s still some discussion among the commissioners about what the fee structure looks like.”

Powers said the City Commission has “instructed staff” to come up with options to reduce the cost to the city’s seniors.

There will be another significant change in the city’s stormwater regulations.

“Recommended development standards include runoff reduction (infiltration of 1 inch of rainfall/storm water) for addition or replacement of impervious surfaces in excess of 500 square feet,” a memo from Project Civil Engineer Jennings Bell says. The memo was attached to the updated stormwater plan. “This is a significant reduction of the existing single-family exemption that allowed up to 4,058 square feet of impervious surface without mitigation.”

He wrote that runoff reduction is expected to be accomplished using things like rain gardens, flow-wells and pervious pavers.

“Development of a Decatur-specific prescriptive green infrastructure toolbox is also recommended to help residents implement the new standards at a reasonable cost,” Bell wrote.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Beth Hagberg, a project manager at Anne Architecture, and Lynn Gathercole, a local resident, both expressed concern about the new restriction for projects on single-family dwellings.

“The change is going to make it very difficult for average single-family homeowners to do simple projects like building a garage or replacing a driveway without triggering the ordinance,” said Hagberg.

In other City Commission business:

– While most of the proposed budget across the year was extremely conservative due to the financial impact of the ongoing pandemic, the city’s draft annual audit report shows a positive financial position at the end of the year. The fiscal year 2020-2021 budget was revised to include $150,000 for a clean energy plan, $498,000 for a one-time, merit-based pay adjustment for full-time employees in lieu of salary increases, $25,000 to continue anti-racist training and related activities through June 2021, approximately $21,000 to fund the local government management fellow position for one-half of the year and $17,000 for public safety supplies including Fire hazmat supplies and two e-bikes for patrol.

– Requests and petitions were heard from many Decatur climate activists both thanking the Commission for adding the clean energy plan and also urging them to continue their work to make Decatur a more climate-conscious city.

– An alcoholic beverage license was granted to Mac McGee’s restaurant on the Square. The restaurant was forced to close for more than three months, which required the owners to seek a new license.

– $300,000 in grants was awarded to 14 non-profit organizations in the City of Decatur. The grant agreements are scheduled to be executed by December 16 and the funds disbursed by December 18.

-Members of Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights continued to call for the removal of the cannon in the Square, which they say glorifies the genocide of Indigenous people.

– City Manager Andrea Arnold executed a contract in the amount of $185,220 with Maxair Mechanical Inc., establishing a project budget in the amount of $205,000 for the installation of ultraviolet air treatment systems. The HVAC systems will be installed in the Police Department, Fire Department, both Active Living Centers, Legacy Park Administration Building, Public Works and City Hall, and are designed to use ultraviolet light to reduce contaminants in the air in indoor environments.

– The City Manager authorized the City of Decatur to enter into an agreement with the Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI).

“CFCI is an international effort to encourage communities to put the rights and needs of children at the forefront of decision-making, infrastructure design, and community services,” according to the document. “The initiative brings together local stakeholders and UNICEF to create safe, inclusive and child-responsive cities and communities.”

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