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Rezoning deferred but still a topic of discussion at Clarkston City Council meeting

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Rezoning deferred but still a topic of discussion at Clarkston City Council meeting

L to R City Manager Shawanna Qawiy, Councilmember Susan Hood, Vice Mayor Debra Johnson, Mayor Beverly Burks, Councilmember Jamie Carroll, Councilmember Awet Eyasu, Councilmember Laura Hopkins, Councilmember YT Bell. Photo by Sara Amis

Clarkston, GA — The Clarkston City Council discussed a plan to rezone properties located at 572, 582, 586, 590, 596, 600, and 606 Woodland Avenue from NR-CD (Neighborhood Residential Community Development District) to TC (Town Center) at their work session April 24.

City Manager Shawanna Qawiy said that the rezoning would align the parcels to the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

Ira Katz, a real estate broker, said he has been trying to sell some parcels along Woodlawn for five years. Katz said that the total parcels are 2.3 acres, which is a little too small for bigger developers and a little too big for independent ones.

Katz said he would like the city to keep 596, 600, and 606 as NR-CD so that townhomes can be included in a proposed project. Another parcel at the corner of Woodland Ave. and North Decatur Rd. would be mixed use with retail below and condominiums above consistent with the town center zoning. Katz said that he did not feel that the project would happen if townhomes cannot be included.

Resident Amy Medford urged the council to go ahead and decide whether to allow the developer to create the project. “This is an easy win,” said Medford.

The rezoning will be up for a vote at the city council’s regular meeting, on May 2. Discussion of other changes to Clarkston’s zoning ordinance was deferred to the council’s May 30 work session.

The council also discussed renewing the city’s contract with Sears Pool Management Consultants, Incorporated, for $61,200.  SPMC manages the pool at Milam Park for the city.

Craig Sears, the owner, said that because of industry-wide staffing shortages, the company raised wages to attract and retain staff. Increased labor costs are reflected in a higher contract amount.

During public comments, Medford said that she stopped going to the Milam Park pool because she felt it was badly managed, including lifeguards disappearing during break times and not enforcing pool rules.

Sears said that many of his staff were burned out towards the end of last year’s season, and that he felt the changes he has made would help address that problem. Sears also agreed to provide a phone number that the public can use to contact his management company if there is a problem.

Mayor Beverly Burks proposed to codify the public comment process for city council meetings. Burks said that during the discussion of the transition back to in-person meetings, council members had stated a desire to ensure consistency in the process of signing up for public comments between those present in person and those attending online. A lengthy discussion ensued.

Councilmember Awet Eyasu said that the current rule requiring commenters to register 30 minutes in advance came about during the pandemic when the meetings were being hacked. Eyasu said that he wants for people to be able to show up and put their names on a list to speak and that if there’s time left, attendees should be allowed to line up to speak.

The council appeared to have a consensus about having a three-minute limit for individuals to speak. Still, some, like Eyasu, wanted to do away with an overall time limit for public comment.

Councilmember YT Bell said that she feels both council members and the public should be mindful of the discussion time frame because long meetings make it more difficult for some to attend. 

The council also discussed adopting a civility resolution for the City of Clarkston. Qawiy said that the Georgia Municipal Association requested that all cities adopt a version of the resolution.

Councilmember Eyasu asked if there had been an incident that prompted the resolution. Qawiy said that there had not.

The council discussed a resolution to deny a claim asserted by Larry McClam. McClam’s lawyer sent a letter to the city of Clarkston that asserts that while working for the Riverdale Police Department, McClam was falsely accused of illegal acts and was arrested and demoted. The letter states that McClam was told that the arrest warrant originated with the Clarkston Police Department, but that he learned later that it originated with the Riverdale PD.

City Attorney Stephen Quinn said that it wasn’t clear from the letter what Clarkston was supposed to have done wrong and that Clarkston’s insurance company has asked that the city formally deny the claim.

The council discussed amending the adopted 2023 city council meeting schedule to change the June 27, 2023, work session to June 29, 2023. The change will allow the mayor and city council to attend the Georgia Municipal Association 2023 Annual Convention from June 23-27, 2023.

The council also discussed adopting a resolution for Georgia Cities Week, April 23-29, for the City of Clarkston.

The city of Clarkston honored four city employees at the meeting, and Qawiy read a statement from the city.  Clarkston Police Sgt. Ryan Koirala, Officer R. Dillard, and Officer S. Smith were recognized for the “kindness and sensitivity they bestowed upon a resident.” Hakeem Ayuba from the Public Works Department was recognized for having “the tenacity to go above and beyond to keep the city looking its best.”

At the end of the meeting, the council voted to approve a contract with Brittany Trammell to be a solicitor for the City of Clarkston. Trammell will be paid $1,000 monthly to provide prosecuting attorney services for the Clarkston Municipal Court.

“Welcome to the job,” said Burks.

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