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Decatur School Board making plans to convert two homes into duplexes

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Decatur School Board making plans to convert two homes into duplexes

Decatur School Board members Hans Utz, Jana Johnson-Davis, James Herndon, Superintendent Maggie Fehrman, and board members Carmen Sulton and Tasha White discussed the district's plans to apply for building permits to convert two homes into duplexes at the Feb. 21 school board meeting. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board, at its Feb. 21 regular meeting, initiated the planning process to convert two CSD-owned homes into duplexes. 

The board authorized Superintendent Maggie Fehrman to apply for two building permits for the homes at 204 Westchester Drive and 927 S McDonough Street. The homes could be converted to duplexes and offered as affordable rental options for CSD employees. 

The school board did not decide how to go about subdividing the homes.

On Feb. 6, the Decatur City Commission unanimously adopted zoning amendments to re-allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in single-family zoning districts. The ordinance will go into effect on June 30.

The city will 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,” former City Planner Kristin Allin wrote in the memo.

The next steps for the city of Decatur is to prepare the plan review staff for future building and land disturbance permit applications that propose new construction of or conversion of a home to a duplex or walk-up flat, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill told Decaturish.

“Staff will also track certain data specific to any missing middle housing permits that are submitted to produce a report of findings at the end of 2024,” Threadgill said. “There is no new application form or review procedure for property owners. Any property owner wishing to construct new or convert to a duplex or a walk-up flat will simply file the necessary building permits to Decatur’s permitting office. Pre-application meetings are highly encouraged, though, to ensure conceptual plans are able to meet the ordinance.”

For CSD to make sure the homes could potentially be multifamily homes, the district would need to apply for building permits, Fehrman said. 

“That doesn’t mean this is going to happen overnight. We’ve still got a lot of work to do to figure out timing, how this is going to work,” Fehrman said. “CSD is not going to get into the business of being property managers or overseeing rental properties, but we do want to have and contribute to the opportunity to create middle housing for the city of Decatur with these two properties.”

Depending on the approval of the permits, the district would then move forward with deciding if it will invest resources and time into figuring out the next steps for these properties. Fehrman added that the venture will be budget neutral. 

“As we move forward, this is not a revenue making thing for the district,” she said. “We’re not looking to try to make money off of this. We also do not want to spend tax money on modifying houses. Like I said, I don’t want to get into the property management business. Our business is teaching and learning.”

In September 2022, the school board, along with Allin, discussed the future of four homes the school board owns.

The homes were purchased by the school district in 2018 and two of them have been used as satellite offices for school psychologists, social workers and the Decatur Virtual Academy. Three of the homes are on Westchester Drive and the fourth is on South McDonough near the early childhood learning center.

The homes were purchased at the time in case the school district needed more space to expand the schools. Last year, the school board and city staff discussed options for how CSD could use those homes as teacher housing.

During the September work session, Allin presented four options to the school board for what they could do with the homes. One option was to subdivide the homes into duplexes or triplexes. Another option was to subdivide the homes into a duplex or triplex and add an ADU.

“These could be great houses to subdivide,” Allin said. “That depends on how the house lends itself.”

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