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Decatur City Commission to discuss tree ordinance, South Housing Village financing

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Decatur City Commission to discuss tree ordinance, South Housing Village financing

Trees along E. Ponce De Leon Avenue in downtown Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Update: The work session on the impact fee program has been postponed, City Manager Andrea Arnold said. The City Commission will meet beginning at 6:30 p.m. for a work session on the fiscal year 2020-2021 annual comprehensive financial report. The regular meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. 

Here is our earlier story:

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 5:15 p.m. for a work session on the city’s impact fee program and at 6:30 p.m. for a work session on the fiscal year 2020-2021 annual comprehensive financial report. The commission will meet for a regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. The meetings will be 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 meeting, the City Commission will discuss recommendations from the Planning Commission regarding the tree ordinance. In a memo written on Jan. 14, Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon recommended approval of the tree ordinance following the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the City Commission not adopt the tree ordinance. Planning Commission members cited discomfort with sections the board felt would disproportionately harm homeowners in Decatur.

“It’s just too much,” Planning Commission Co-Chair Michael Travis said during the Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 11. “It’s like throwing the kitchen sink and the pantry into this ordinance when we could take the existing ordinance and make a realistic attainable goal.”

Some Planning Commission members felt that the multiple layers of requirements, such as limits on what trees a property owner can remove and requirements for conserving tree canopy, would present a burden on property owners, especially for lower income households.

“I agree the previous [tree canopy] goals were not being achieved,” commission member Greg Chilik said at the Jan. 11 meeting. “The lack of progress in reaching our goals is not due to established homeowners holding us back. It has been the commercial developments and rebuilds on residential property. Residential property owners are the best stewards of trees on their sites and always have been. We would be taking away a lot of their property rights because of a problem caused largely by other parties.”

The Better Together Advisory Board discussed the tree ordinance during its meeting on Jan. 11 as well. The board recommended that the City Commission retain the proposed canopy loss fee under the condition that an equity assessment would be conducted after 12 months and the fee would be reassessed accordingly, Assistant City Manager Linda Harris wrote in a memo.

The Better Together Advisory Board also recommended that a means test structure be created and applied for a hardship exemption to the canopy loss fee; the city offer a payment plan option for the imposed canopy loss fee if needed; and that the city have a communications plan designed to explain the exemptions and how property owners can access them.

Additionally, on the agenda, the City Commission will consider extending the city’s face mask ordinance through Feb. 22. Currently, the ordinance expires at midnight tonight. During the reports and other business part of the meeting, the board will discuss an update on the South Housing Village financing for affordable housing at Legacy Park.

The board will also discuss a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program and will consider approving matching funds of $50,000. The project would be for stabilizing the bank and constructing a boardwalk at the Legacy Park pond.

Writer Cathi Harris contributed to this story. 

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