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Decatur City Commission reallows duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in the city

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Decatur City Commission reallows duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in the city

FILE PHOTO: The Decatur City Commission voted unanimously on Monday, Feb. 6, to adopt an ordinance that will reallow duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes to built in the city's single family zoning districts. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its Feb. 6 meeting, unanimously adopted zoning amendments that will re-allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in single-family zoning districts. The ordinance will go into effect on June 30.

The amendments required two votes to formally adopt the changes. At the Jan. 17 city commission meeting, commissioners held the first vote on the amendments and voted unanimously to approve the amendments.

The Decatur Planning Commission previously recommended that the city commission deny text amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance to allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in single-family residential zoning districts.

The amendments will allow for the construction of or conversion to duplexes, which are two units, and walk-up flats, which are three to four units, in the city’s R-50, R-60, R-85, and RS-17 zoning districts by limited use. These types of housing will have to conform to the size limitations of single-family homes. The ability to build and maintain a single-family home will not change.

The amendment also requires one parking space per unit, and allows for up to 50% of the parking for duplexes and walk-up flats to be on-street parking, as long as there is enough street frontage and on-street parking is allowed.

Also, as part of the ordinance, a four-unit walk-up flat may also have one accessory dwelling unit and will be subject to the mandatory inclusionary housing ordinance, according to a memo from former city planner Kristin Allin.

The city will also limit the number of building permits for 18 months from June 30, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2024. The permits will be limited to three per Decatur lower elementary school zone to give the city time to implement the zoning changes “in a manner that best serves the community and minimizes any adverse impacts on city residents,” Allin wrote in the memo.

Allin, who spearheaded the effort to re-allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, in January started a job as a senior planner with the Atlanta Regional Commission.

During the meeting, residents in favor thanked the city commission for voting in favor of the amendments in January. They also noted that the missing middle housing types could create more diversity in the city. Some in favor acknowledged that the amendments won’t solve the issue of affordability, but it would be one tool to help provide more housing options.

Those opposed urged the city to table the vote and raised concerns about cited concerns around affordability, traffic, and blanket zoning changes. Some also pointed to the planning commission’s recommendation to deny the application and worried that the amendments won’t attract middle-class homeownership.

If the commission had tabled the vote, the process of passing the amendments would start over. The city would once again have to follow the new state zoning procedures law that requires two public hearings, public notices, and two public votes. City Manager Andrea Arnold said at a minimum that would be a six to eight-month process.

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