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Decatur City Commission to discuss tree ordinance, Legacy Park affordable housing

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Decatur City Commission to discuss tree ordinance, Legacy Park affordable housing

Commissioners, pictured left to right, are: Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, Lesa Mayer, Kelly Walsh, Mayor Patti Garrett, and George Dusenbury. Photo obtained via the city of Decatur

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission will meet on Monday, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m. for a work session and at 7:30 p.m. for a regular meeting. The meetings are held in person at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street, as well as Zoom.

To access the meeting, follow these instructions: 

Participants must register in advance through Zoom to receive the meeting link. To register, click here.

The meeting will also be livestreamed on the city’s website.

To view the meeting agenda, click here.

During the work session, the City Commission will discuss the revisions to the tree ordinance.

The intent of the tree ordinance is to encourage the conservation of existing trees and provide requirements for the protection, maintenance, renewal and increase in the tree canopy in the city, Decaturish previously reported.

The charge from the City Commission was for city staff to provide revisions to the existing ordinance that address a number of concerns people have expressed over the past couple of years, Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon previously said. The city has been working to strengthen the ordinance to protect more trees.

One major change under the proposed tree ordinance amendments is that property owners would be required to submit a tree removal permit to remove untreatably diseased, dead or hazardous trees. Commercial, high-density residential and institutional properties would have to also submit a tree conservation plan and pay the canopy loss fee. On single-family residential properties, tree planting is required in order to maintain no net loss of tree canopy.

The proposed ordinance additionally sets a tree canopy goal of 60%. The current ordinance does not set a tree canopy goal, but the goal in the community forestry management plan is 50% citywide. Although, some residents and the city’s Environmental Sustainability Board have been advocating for the tree canopy goal to be set at a minimum of 63%.

Earlier this year the city commissioned a tree canopy assessment which found that from 2009 to 2019, the tree canopy was generally measured at around 57% over the entire city.

The current tree ordinance additionally provides a canopy credit, in which new trees receive credit for the tree canopy based on 100% of canopy cover potential at maturity.

The draft ordinance proposes a canopy credit that depends on the size of the tree. New large trees receive partial credit for tree canopy based on 50% of canopy cover potential at maturity. Medium trees receive 75% credit, and small and very small trees receive full credit.

Other amendments include requiring a canopy loss fee for reduction of community benefits by unnecessary tree removal; allowing the City Commission to grant special exceptions to canopy coverage standards for affordable housing; and having the city arborist prepare and publish quarterly reports.

In other business:

— During the regular meeting, the board will consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority to serve as the developer of the South Housing Village at Legacy Park.

After the city bought the property known as Decatur Legacy Park, the Decatur Legacy Park Master Plan was adopted by the City Commission in December 2018. The final plan includes a housing addendum that provides detail about the housing goals identified during the planning process. One of the adopted housing concepts is the South Housing Village that envisions a community of affordable duplexes, walk-up flats and multiplexes, City Manager Andrea Arnold wrote in a memo.

The Legacy Park Master Plan proposes two separate affordable housing villages on the property. The housing addendum specifies the location and types of housing that will be allowed in each village.

The North Housing Village concept recommends a mix of new single-family and duplex cottages, with each unit no greater than 1,500 square feet and a building height limit of 25 feet. The historic Sam Bell and Glenn buildings that are already there would be renovated and could provide an additional 16 co-housing units.

The South Housing Village concept plans for a combination of walk-up flats, multiplexes and duplexes that could support up to 130 units. For the South Village housing, the multiplexes could contain up to 25 units in a four-story building, with a building height limit of 50 feet. The walk-up flats would be buildings with four to eight units in each, limited to three-story buildings with an overall height limit of 40 feet. Duplexes could be up to two stories, with a 35-foot height limit, and 2,800 square feet per unit.

To construct the South Housing Village, the city plans to partner with the Decatur Housing Authority, which will apply for low-income housing tax credits and oversee the development of the project in cooperation with the city.

The city of Decatur will be responsible for public infrastructure on the site and expects to use American Rescue Plan Act funds. If the intergovernmental agreement is approved by both parties, DHA will develop cost estimates, including costs associated with the site improvements. Before the 2022 low-income housing tax credit deadline, the City Commission will discuss the project design and development plan during a work session, and consider approval at a subsequent meeting.

— Additionally, the City Commission will discuss approval of a project budget of $125,000, and use of American Rescue Plan funds, for COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated city employees.

On Sept. 27, the city established a policy requiring city staff to get tested frequently for COVID-19. The goal of the policy is to maximize COVID-19 vaccination rates among city personnel, especially for those who directly interact with other employees or the public in their work.

If approved, the city would start providing on-site COVID-19 testing on Dec. 2 for all city employees who are unvaccinated.

Writer Cathi Harris contributed to this story.

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