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Decatur City Commission approves task orders for stormwater improvements

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Decatur City Commission approves task orders for stormwater improvements

Decatur Assistant City Manager David Junger (left) presented stormwater task orders to the City Commission on Monday, Aug. 16, at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — Stormwater improvements are set to occur in Decatur over the five years as the Decatur City Commission approved task orders for 11 projects at the regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 16.

The task orders are for professional design services that are in line with a proposed plan for stormwater capital improvements. The city plans to proceed with requesting proposals from from the city’s on-call engineering firms.

This would be the first step in implementation of the capital improvements identified in the stormwater master plan that the City Commission adopted in December 2020, Assistant City Manager David Junger said. High priority projects are scheduled to happen over a 20-year timeframe.

“That timeframe was broken down into four consecutive five-year implementation horizons. In the first five-year portion of that program there were 11 projects identified,” Junger said.

The projects areas are Derrydown Way, Park Drive and Candler Street, North Decatur Road and Ferndale Avenue, Brower and McClean Streets, Champlain and Seneca Streets, Sycamore Drive and Fairview Street, Mimosa Drive and Mimosa Place, Lamont Drive, Wilton Drive and Plainview Street, Lockwood Terrace, Sycamore Place/East Ponce de Leon.

Junger added that the project areas are listed in the order of priority that was identified through the stormwater master plan. The individual project proposals will be presented to the City Commission for approval.

Throughout the stormwater master plan, the city has identified the importance of green infrastructure and that will be a focus for the city during the planning process. Green infrastructure will be used in combination with traditional stormwater measures, Junger said.

“All of these measures will seek to help increase stormwater capacity, add needed infrastructure to mitigate flooding, reduce stormwater impacts to structures and other yards so that runoff will be contained, infiltrated and conveyed within the public rights of way to the maximum extent possible,” Junger said.

Updates to the stormwater utility fee were recommended in the master plan to fund these projects.

“Due to the pandemic, [the] City Commissioners adopted the two-step fee process, with approving the four fee tier system and a base fee of $215 per one equivalent residential unit in the fiscal year 20-21 with a projected increase in the base fee to $285 per one equivalent residential unit in the 21-22 bill,” Junger said.

The current stormwater utility fund balance that can be used for capital improvements is just under $1.6 million. The city is anticipating the budget for the first five-year phase to be $9 million, assuming the stormwater utility fee is approved and the city receives a 90% collection rate, Junger said.

Additional funding could also be available through the American Rescue Plan that has not yet been included in the city’s plans, he added.

— In other business, the City Commission approved the updated development plans for the East Decatur Station project and amended the ordinance that the board approved in December granting several special exceptions to design standards. The plans received approval from the Downtown Development Authority and the Planning Commission.

Ben Yorker, vice president of development at Northwood Ravin, said the developers were not requesting any additional special exceptions but wanted to present the design changes to the City Commission.

The original plans for the project included 405 residential units, but Northwood Ravin is planning “a more compact footprint” of 372 units. Although the developers have reduced the amount of units, the number of affordable housing units has remained the same at 41 units.

“We’re doing that because we do not want this to feel like you can kind of bait and switch,” Yorker said. “We are committed to maintaining at least 41 [affordable] units even if the unit count changes ever so slightly as part of the design process and maintaining that total.”

A one-acre parcel has been freed up given the updated design plans and is intended to be a public green, open space, Yorker said. He added that the space could be transferred to the city or the developers could build out the space and establish a permanent public easement.

The updated plans also allow room for a larger commercial tenant and creating a pedestrian alley.

—The City Commission also approved a project budget of $650,000 for invasive plant control and woodland restoration at Legacy Park. The city will collaborate with Trees Atlanta to implement a five-year program to do this work. The plan includes 130 volunteer events, with most taking place in the final two years of the project, and various opportunities for environmental education for the community, Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon said.

“It’s extremely green,” Saxon said. “Green with a lot of invasives that are seriously harming the trees and native materials on the property. Our objective is to save the trees and the native plants and restore to its best, functioning as a woodland.”

Most of the work will be done in the park’s 22-acre conservation easement and can be funded by a grant from DeKalb County of about $572,000. A total of $76,558 from the city’s capital improvements fund would be needed to pay for restoration activities outside of the conservation easement, Saxon wrote in a memo. City staff recommended the city allocate $43,300 from the capital improvements fund for the current fiscal year.

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