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Stone Mountain City Council breaks deadlock, makes Gil Freeman new mayor pro tem

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain City Council breaks deadlock, makes Gil Freeman new mayor pro tem

Stone Mountain City Councilmember Gil Freeman plants sunflower seedlings during a ceremony to show solidarity with Ukraine at VFW Park in the city of Stone Mountain on Saturday, April 23, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Rebecca Grapevine, contributor

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council appointed Councilmember Gil Freeman as the new mayor pro tempore last night, bringing to a close a controversy that has lasted since January.

Before the vote, the council approved a resolution with a new method for choosing the mayor pro tempore.

The mayor pro tempore is akin to a deputy mayor who can fill in if the mayor must be absent.

Under the new system, if no one nominee for mayor pro tempore receives at least four votes, the top two vote-getters are pitted against each other in a second round of voting.

That’s exactly what happened last night. The three initial nominees were Gil Freeman, Shawnette Bryant, and Chakira Johnson.

Since none of the three met the four-vote threshold, the six councilmembers had to vote again in a contest between the top two vote-getters – Freeman and Johnson.

In that second round, both Freeman and Johnson garnered three votes, forcing Mayor Beverly Jones to cast the deciding vote. She voted for Freeman.

The council decided to table a separate controversy regarding the terms of Chakira Johnson’s service on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

The council approved new members for three vacant seats on the DDA. They are Carl Wright, Jenna Trump, and Cimone Husbands.

The council postponed a discussion about changing the name of Mountain Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive until the next work session on Tuesday, May 17.

“Should we even be considering this?,” asked Teresa Crowe about the name change proposal that was introduced by Mayor Jones at a meeting two weeks ago.

“I would think we would table this because of all the….petitions that were given to us. There were residents on East and West Mountain Street [that] provided petitions exceeding 90% of the homeowners… that do not want the name change,” added Crowe.

“There may be another petition going on,” countered the mayor, saying the council could discuss the matter at the next work session.

The meeting was the first for new interim city manager Warren Hutmacher, who replaced former interim manager Marie Garrett.

The council voted to approve a variance that will allow the building of thirteen new houses on Cloud Street as an extension of the existing Hearthstone development.

While most councilmembers expressed support for the new project, Freeman noted concerns about affordability.

“We owe it to the existing homeowners to complete due diligence – the existing homeowners that are here already that voted us into office,” said Freeman.

“We need to make sure that you know there’s no spot zoning, creep zoning, and there’s no stormwater issues that are all settled and that it doesn’t increase everyone’s taxes unreasonably,” said Freeman.

“[A]s far as affordability, we have agreed to have two of the houses of a reduced size than the current houses that were built, to hopefully make them more affordable, during these inflationary and higher interest rate times,” said Michael Ray, on behalf of the builder.

“We’ll continue conversations about affordability. But that was not what this project was about,” said Ray.

The council approved the variance for the new development by a vote of 5 to 1, with Freeman opposing.

The council approved the donation of twenty trees from Trees Atlanta. The trees will be planted around the city of Stone Mountain.

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