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Decatur City Commission approves rezoning, conditional use permit for daycare

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Decatur City Commission approves rezoning, conditional use permit for daycare

Smarties Academy at Common Table church has requested a zoning change to continue to operate on the church campus. Photo by John Kiely.
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Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its March 21 meeting, approved a land use designation change, rezoning and a conditional use permit for Smarties Academy. 

The conditional use permit was approved with the condition the enrollment is capped at 148 students. Smarties Academy has not proposed to make any changes to its operations, building footprint or the property itself.

If the daycare were to expand its site, the property owners would have to go through the rezoning process again. 

Smarties Academy, located at 465 Clairemont Avenue, was zoned R-60 single-family residential, and the property owners sought to rezone to I-institutional to allow the childcare center to continue to operate at that location.

The property is the former site of The Common Table (previously known as The Lutheran Church of the Messiah), which has leased space in its campus to Smarties since 2012. Common Table ended its ministry in 2021 and sold the property to Smarties Academy.

Under Decatur’s zoning code, churches and schools are an allowed use in R-60 residential districts. But the daycare, operating on its own, would not be an allowed business type.

“[The applications are] to change the land use, not of the entire property, but of a remnant piece behind the building that has the residential low density and to change that small piece to the institutional land use classification, so that the entirety of the property has that uniform institutional land use classification,” said Jeff Haymore, an attorney representing Smarties Academy. “Simply, it is to convert the use from an accessory to the church and convert it to a primary use of the property in light of the fact that the church is closing its ministry and selling the property.”

Some residents raised concerns about the future use of the property. Kristen Thorton Webb lives in the condos next door to the daycare. She said the part of the property that was zoned residential provided a buffer in between the church and the condos.

She was worried about the potential for a building or something else to be built behind the condos that would eliminate that buffer. Thornton Webb also wondered about the future plans of the daycare and if they would increase student capacity or the facilities.

Concerns were also raised about traffic entering or exiting using a driveway on Clairemont Avenue. The property owner agreed to come up with a plan on how parents will enter and exit the property and submit it to the city’s planning department for review.

“I, myself, have experienced the people coming in and out not on Erie but actually on Clairemont,” resident Maria Álvarez said. “My concern is if we start adding more students, more people are going to start making a right there or coming out of there or in and out whichever way, so that’s going to create more traffic…”

With the daycare’s license from the state and the conditional use permit from the city, the capacity is limited to 148 students. If Smarties Academy were to increase its capacity under its state license, they would still have to get approval from the city commission due to the conditional use permit.

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