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Neighbors optimistic about Decatur’s purchase of blighted Commerce Drive property

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Neighbors optimistic about Decatur’s purchase of blighted Commerce Drive property

600 Commerce Drive, Decatur, GA. Image obtained via Google Maps

Decatur, GA — Neighbors of the property occupying 600 and 604 Commerce Drive spoke at Tuesday’s city commission meeting in favor of the city of Decatur paying $600,000 to buy it.

At one point the property was slated to be a halfway house for veterans leaving drug rehab, according to one neighbor, but the neighbors fought it. The property has been in a sorry state for years, the neighbor said. At one point in 2021, a developer was eyeing the property as a site for townhomes.

At its June 21 meeting, the Decatur City Commission approved the purchase, and with it comes the promise of something better for the neighborhood.

“I think being able to come to you with the transparency that entails is a far better situation than the developers we have already dealt with,” said neighbor Rachel “Susie” Kezh.

City Manager Andrea Arnold said the city currently has no plans for the property, aside from making sure it’s secure and cleaning up the outstanding code violations. It could eventually be used for greenspace or for modeling how affordable housing could be built in a single-family neighborhood. At a work session before the June 21 meeting, the city discussed the possibility of the city once again allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in the city. They’ve been prohibited in Decatur since 1988.

Commissioners agreed that the city is paying a fair price for the property and said whatever the city does with it will be subject to the same laws that govern every other development in the city.

“Whatever comes next, we will make sure it involves a public input process,” Mayor Patti Garrett said.

In other business at the June 21 meeting:

– The city commission approved the city’s budget, millage rate and a new pay and employee classification plan.

The Decatur City Commission lowered the millage rate by 0.75 mills, from 13.92 mills to 13.17 mills.

For a fair market value home that is $500,000 and had no change in property value from 2021 to 2022, the property owner would pay $3,193.50 in taxes if the city’s millage rate stayed at 13.92 mills. The property owner will now pay $3,018.25 in taxes under the new rate of 13.17 mills.

The FY 22-23 budget anticipates the city will receive about $32.6 million in general fund revenue and will spend the same amount. The new budget is about $3 million higher than the revised FY 21-22 budget. To balance the budget based on predicted revenues and expenditures, city staff recommend using about $3.8 million in fund balance from the general fund. To see the new budget, click here.

The new pay and classification plan adds nine full-time positions to the city’s staff, for a total of 243. New positions include Facilities Operations Manager, Urban Naturalist and Equity and Engagement Director. To see the new pay and classification plan, click here.

For our previous story about the city’s budget and millage rate, click here.

– The city commission adopted a new fee schedule. The fee schedule reduces the fee for wholesale dealer’s license to sell spirituous liquors from $5,050 to $5,000 because state law limits that fee to $5,000. It increases the fee for review of sprinkler plans and fire alarm plans from $50 to $100 to bring the fee in line with what other local governments charge. It also adjusts camp and class fees in Decatur Active Living by $15 per session.

“A session is a 20 school day period,” a memo from City Clerk Meredith Roark says. “In FY 21-22, the session fee for Animal Crackers (K-2) and Whiz Kids (3-5) was $340 per session for city residents. In FY 22-23 the proposed fee is $355. This increase is necessary in order to cover the additional $2 per hour pay increase for part-time counselors approved in FY 21-22 as a critical effort to attract and retain an adequate number of staff members to operate the city’s seven afterschool programs.”

Reporters Zoe Seiler and Cathi Harris contributed to this story. 

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