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Clarkston keeps zoning in place for potential development on Woodland Avenue

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Clarkston keeps zoning in place for potential development on Woodland Avenue

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — The Clarkston City Council was set to consider rezoning a series of parcels at 572, 582, 586, 590, 596, 600, 606 and 616 Woodland Avenue from NRCD (Neighborhood Residential Community Development District) to TC (Town Center) at its regular meeting May 2.

At the council’s work session on April 24, Ira Katz of Realty Associates of Atlanta said that there is a plan to build townhomes on some of the lots and to build a mixed-use development, including condominium flats on the rest.

During public comment, Katz said that the owner would like for the decision to be deferred for six months so that he can provide a detailed proposal that would include a site plan. Anthony Mitchell owns the 596, 600, and 606 Woodland Ave. parcels.

Resident Michael Brabson agreed that the decision should be deferred, saying that the community needs more time to communicate it. Brabson said he knows the parcels well and invited the council to visit the neighborhood with him.

Resident Amy Medford urged the council to make a decision that would lead to developing the parcels for additional housing.

A neighbor, Georgette Gaffert, said that she was not adamantly opposed to development but would very much miss the relatively wild state of the site if it were developed.

The council ultimately voted not to change the zoning designation of the parcels. Council members Awet Eyasu and Jamie Carroll emphasized that this was not a denial of any potential development and that because this proposal was an initiative from the city, it did not prevent the landowner(s) from bringing a proposal to the city when ready to do so.

Council member Susan Hood concurred, saying that the council’s goal was to see something useful done with the property.

“Since we originally decided to rezone the parcels to [town center], a viable development proposal has come forward. So, we’re willing to stop what we’re doing as the city and wait until you are ready to bring a plan,” Hood said.

During public comment, two speakers alluded to the issue of affordable housing, which has become central to the debate over the rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance.

Medford said that affordability was an important concern on both sides of the debate about the zoning ordinance. Medford said that the council could make homeownership more affordable by reducing the millage rate when the council votes on it next month.

Resident Trudy Sherman Anthony spoke of the need for affordable housing. She said that she was a single mother with a disability receiving Section 8 housing vouchers and that she sees others in similar situations.

A public hearing on the zoning ordinance will be held on May 30 at 10 am, and a vote is scheduled for the council’s regular meeting on June 6.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

— Euitaek You, Mihui Lee, and Moonseok Choi from the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs gave a presentation on an inclusive community outreach strategy for the city based on their research. All three served or still serve as public officials in South Korea and are currently Masters of Public Administration students at UGA.

The study was conducted with the Georgia Municipal Association, the City of Clarkston, and the UGA School of Public and International Affairs.

You, Lee, and Choi sought and recommended best practices based on benchmark cities. They stated that since Clarkston is the most diverse city in the United States and certainly in Georgia, it was difficult to find a direct comparison; however, they did compare Clarkston to cities of a similar size, such as Decatur, Ga, and Ukiah, Calif., and cities with similar density and diversity due to immigration and refugee influx such as San Francisco, St. Paul, and Boston.

Specific recommendations included improving two-way communication between the city government and residents with an online forum and a non-emergency report service. To overcome language barriers, the city could translate more city project materials and offer a request form for translation services. The city could also hire multilingual individuals as part-time outreach staff and appoint some as community ambassadors.

To improve refugee support and inclusion, the research team suggested appointing community members to the Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity Committee rather than having the membership be solely city council members. The city could also hold “Clarkston Neighborhood Coffee Hours” to welcome new residents and offer education on city government for newcomers.

Finally, the research team suggested that the city hire a communication and outreach coordinator.

Eyasu asked if You, Lee, and Choi had found any sources of funding to make those changes, but that was not within the scope of their project.

— The city council approved a renewed contract with Sears Pool Management Consultants, Incorporated, for $61,200. City Manager Shawanna Qawiy said that she met with the business owner and discussed changes to address previously stated safety concerns, including ensuring adult volunteers were present to aid the teenage lifeguards in enforcing rules. Volunteers will be trained in CPR at an additional charge to the city.

— After having placed approval of a contract with Brittany Trammell as solicitor for the city’s municipal court on the consent agenda, the council removed it from the consent agenda and deferred it to the June 6 meeting.

Eyasu asked if Trammell had second thoughts. City Manager Qawiy responded that it was a personal matter that would not be discussed in the meeting. Mayor Beverly Burks added that it would be a delayed start.

— The council codified the public comment process to accommodate the council’s new hybrid meeting format. Anyone wishing to speak at a city council meeting, whether online or in person, should register in advance of the public speaking portion of the meeting. If additional time remains after registered speakers have done so, others may also be allowed to speak. 

— The council voted to change the June 27, 2023 city council work session to June 29, 2023. 

— The city has purchased 3520 Montreal Creek Ct., which will be included in the city’s greenway feasibility study. The parcel is adjacent to Friendship Forest. 

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