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Decatur City Commission extends face mask ordinance

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Decatur City Commission extends face mask ordinance

The Decatur City Commission met on Monday, May 17, for its regular meeting to discuss the face covering ordinance as well as an affordable housing project. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission at its May 17 meeting extended the face mask ordinance until June 21, at which time the board will reconsider the ordinance.

The ordinance was first adopted in July 2020 and has been extended a few times. The ordinance states that masks must be worn when entering any building in the city, although the requirement does not apply to religious establishments.

Residents and visitors must also wear a mask outside when they cannot remain at least six feet away from another person.

The extension comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated individuals don’t have to wear masks in most settings.

About 20% of the DeKalb County population over the age of 12 has been vaccinated which is less than the national average of 44%, according to the CDC vaccine tracker. According the Georgia Department of Public Health, 30% of Georgia residents are fully vaccinated.

The number of vaccinated DeKalb residents is a relatively small percentage of the population, Arnold said.

“However, considering that the vaccination has just been made available to children age 12 to 15, we believe that it would be prudent to wait about another four to five weeks to provide an opportunity really for anybody ages 12 and up who desire to be vaccinated to have that opportunity to then be fully vaccinated,” Arnold said.

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers has been impressed with the community as he’s seen a vast number of individuals still actively wearing masks when entering buildings.

“I think we have an obligation to those 12 to 15 year olds to give them the same opportunity that we were afforded and to protect their future so I am absolutely comfortable in seeing this through,” Powers said. “We didn’t rush to make changes along the way and we’ve been very conservative in our approach with mask mandates and I see that this fits in line with what we’ve done all along.”

Decatur also attracts many visitors from the surrounding areas, Mayor Patti Garrett said.

“I think that’s another important piece when we’re looking at the county vaccination rates that we recognize that we’re the county seat and that we welcome visitors to come into our city and hope they do but we want to be as protective as we can be of public health,” Garrett said.

In other business, the City Commission additionally amended the tax allocation district No. 1 redevelopment plan to make it clearer that money from the tax allocation district can be used for affordable housing.

The tax allocation district No. 1 for east Decatur was created in 2015 with the adoption of a redevelopment plan. The district was created to leverage the tax digest growth from private investment within the district. The redevelopment plan anticipated a broad array of uses of the tax proceeds, Arnold said.

Under the redevelopment plan, the TAD proceeds may support on and off site development like parks, streets, sidewalks, signage, etc. It could be a private or public development and the proceeds could pay for public amenities.

The City Commission updated the redevelopment plan. The change was initiated by a redevelopment project that requested the use of tax proceeds to cover partial infrastructure costs that will result in 70 units of affordable housing for seniors.

The amendment added clarity to the ordinance to allow for TAD proceeds to be used for infrastructure in support of affordable housing, Arnold said.

The board subsequently committed about $438,000 in grant funds to the tax allocation district to cover the infrastructure costs in support of an affordable housing development. The total project cost is estimated to be over $21 million.

Columbia Residential is developing an 80-unit complex on Sam Street and 70 of the units are affordable housing units. Sixty-one units are up to 60% of the area median income, nine units would be for up to 50% of the area median income and 10 units are at market rate, Arnold said.

Columbia Residential is seeking funds from a variety of sources. They are applying for low income housing tax credits through the Department of Community Affairs. The city’s funding is conditional and is based upon the developer producing the project and getting the low income housing tax credits.

The funding is also dependent on the number of affordable housing units, the completion of the project and other sources of revenue, Arnold said.

If the developers don’t get the loan funding then the project would not move forward right away and Columbia Residential would often try again in the next funding round, Christina Davis of Columbia Residential said.

Commissioner Lesa Mayer was happy to see the project but also struggles with the affordability being age restricted.

“So I’m thrilled with the numbers in the project but my only concern is that it is not necessarily affordable housing for all age groups of people, families, young people, and seniors,” Mayer said. “It’s solely restricted to seniors, but other than that I’m always thrilled to have more affordable housing added to Decatur.”

The City Commission will meet next on Monday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held via Zoom and will be livestreamed on the city’s website.

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