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Decatur City Commission shows support for Decatur Land Trust separation from Legacy Decatur

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Decatur City Commission shows support for Decatur Land Trust separation from Legacy Decatur

The Decatur City Commission met on Monday, June 7, via Zoom to discuss the Decatur Land Trust, renovations to the Legacy Park dining hall and the budgets. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission at its June 7 meeting approved a resolution showing its support for the Decatur Land Trust becoming an independent non-profit corporation.

The Decatur Land Trust presented plans to the City Commission at the May 17 work session. The Land Trust was created a couple of years ago and five board members were appointed by Legacy Decatur in 2019.

Legacy Decatur is the board that oversees Legacy Park, the former United Methodist Children’s Home property on South Columbia Drive. The Land Trust has always planned to become a stand-alone nonprofit and it is ready to move forward with the process.

“I see this as being actually a bit more autonomous than perhaps what we see with the Legacy Project, but still I think the ability to compete for grants and external funding is an important piece to me by having that separation,” Mayor Patti Garrett said at the May 17 meeting.

Through the land trust, the city will be able to acquire property through a purchase or donation and facilitate the development or preservation of affordable housing. The entity would also maintain the ground lease for the affordable units in order to keep the affordable over time as the units are re-sold and rented, Decaturish previously reported.

“We feel the timing for the establishment is consistent with several pending projects that are on the horizon, including the cottage courts and a deed restricted condominium project that was created at 108 Park Place under the city of Decatur’s inclusionary housing policy,” Affordable Housing Fellow Kristin Allin said.

The Land Trust board made some changes to the board’s bylaws based on feedback from the City Commission in May. One of the changes includes the provision that the mayor and city manager may each make one appointment to the Land Trust. That would bring the five-member board up to seven members.

“The DLT board and the city of Decatur feel this change will enable representation and involvement by the city and the commission on the DLT board,” Allin said.

The change includes an annual report to be created and made publicly available.

“This report will detail the Decatur Land Trust’s activities during the past 12 months, the most recent financial reports, a list of all the interests owned or leased by the Decatur Land Trust, and a plan for the activities of the Decatur Land Trust in the coming year. This report will be presented annually to the commission,” Allin said.

Legacy Decatur will make the final decision on the Decatur Land Trust becoming an independent non-profit corporation. The board is expected to vote on the measure in July.

The City Commission additionally approved a change order and a revision to the budget for the Legacy Park dining hall renovation. The revised budget amount is $100,000 and the change order is in the amount of $18,074 for renovations to the dining hall.

On March 10, a budget of $85,000 was approved and a contract in the amount of about $79,000 was awarded to Tower Interior Construction for the project. Given the change order, the contract amount will increase to about $97,000, Assistant City Manager David Junger said.

The initial phase of the project included testing for lead-based paint and extensive contamination was found. The change order also requested to upgrade the flooring from carpet to vinyl plank and get rid of the lead-based paint, according to the agenda packet.

“We knew there was going to be some lead paint abatement as part of this project however once the contract was awarded and the work started more lead-based paint was found and absolutely to provide a safe environment — obviously it’s part of a facility that is well-used, frequently used — we thought that it was real important to make sure that everything was taken care of and remediated safely,” Junger said.

— In other business, the City Commission held a public on the 2020-2021 revised budget and the 2021-2022 proposed budgets. The hearing included some discussion on the millage rate. City staff recommends that the millage rate be adopted at the same time as the budget, City Manager Andrea Arnold said at the City Commission meeting.

City staff is recommending slight shifts within the millage rates by moving 0.12 mills from the debt service fund and adding that amount to the capital improvement fund millage, but the bottom line doesn’t change, Arnold said.

The Decatur City Commission, at its May 17 meeting, adopted a tentative millage rate of 13.92 mills for fiscal year 2021-2022. The funds collected from the millage rate are used for general operations, capital improvements, downtown development authority operations and debt service. This is the same rate that’s in place for the current fiscal year. Although, this will result in a tax increase of 2.81%.

The millage rate and property taxes vary from property to property. An individual’s taxes are based on their property value.

“If someone’s property value remains the same from 2020 to 2021 and the millage rate doesn’t change, then the tax amount remains the same,” Arnold told Decaturish. “If someone’s property value increases from 2020 to 2021 and the millage rate doesn’t change, the tax amount will increase. Individual property values may also decrease which would result in lower taxes.”

The state Taxpayer Bill of Rights law requires that cities and counties calculate a rollback millage rate, which accounts for the increase in tax revenue due to property revaluation. If the city doesn’t adopt the rollback rate, and even if the millage rate stays the same, the city is required to advertise a tax increase. Although, not every property would experience a tax increase, she added.

The Decatur City Commission will hold public hearings on the millage rate on Monday, June 14, at 6 p.m. and Monday, June 21, at 3:30 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. The final millage rate will be set by the City Commission on Monday, June 21, according to a press release from the city. All meetings will be held virtually. Access information for the meetings can be found on the city’s website.

Four festivals are coming to Decatur in the fall. The city’s special events coordinators have been working with event organizers from the Decatur Book Festival, the Decatur Arts Festival, the Decatur Beer Festival and the Amplify Music Festival to plan scaled back events.

The city has not permitted these events yet. The beer festival and the book festival will both be held on private property, so they will not be required to receive a permit from the city. The arts festival and the music festival, however, will need permits.

The city has received a permit application for the music festival and city staff plan to look at the application this week.

“There was a press release sent out but while they had been working with us, we hadn’t seen the actual plan and we can’t approve it until we have the plan with all the COVID guidelines,” Assistant City Manager Linda Harris said.

The Decatur City Commission will meet for a budget work session on Wednesday, June 9, at 5 p.m. via Zoom. The next regular City Commission meeting will be on Monday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m.

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