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Decatur City Commission accepts withdrawal request from Smarties Academy

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Decatur City Commission accepts withdrawal request from Smarties Academy

Smarties Academy is located in the Common Table church building. Photo by John Kiely.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, during its regular meeting on May 15, accepted a request from Smarties Academy to withdraw their application and plans to expand the daycare at 465 Clairemont Ave.

Smarties was seeking to increase its enrollment to 255 and construct an additional building on its property. Smarties Academy appeared before the planning commission on May 9 and commissioners unanimously rejected the proposed changes to Smarties Academy’s conditional use permit and comprehensive site development plan. The plan faced significant opposition from residents.

The withdrawal allows Smarties additional time to reconsider their plans and reapply for the conditional use permit and comprehensive site development plan changes. Jenna Lee, an attorney representing Smarties, said the daycare staff understands and has received feedback from the planning commission and residents that we would like to incorporate into the plans. She said Smarties plans to prepare to reapply.

If Smarties does reapply, they will have to go through the process again and reappear before the city’s historic preservation and planning commissions prior to appearing before the city commission.

“For me, based on the process that we’ve done [on] this, I think it would be a huge disservice to our community if we don’t allow a withdrawal to proceed, because folks who would’ve been here have basically decided not to come because they knew the process was being withdrawn,” Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said.

Smarties Academy is located at the Common Table Church at 465 Clairemont Ave. In March 2022, the daycare requested a zoning change from low-density residential and single-family residential to institutional. The daycare has also requested a conditional use permit to operate the daycare.

The property was previously developed as a church campus for The Common Table, formerly known as the Lutheran Church of The Messiah. Common Table ended its ministry at the end of 2021.

The Decatur City Commission approved the conditional use permit on March 21, 2022, with the condition that the enrollment was capped at 148 students.

In other business:

– The city commission approved a few other recommendations from the planning commission, as well as an annexation ordinance to annex 1121 and 1123 Clairemont Road into the city from DeKalb County. Here is what the city commission approved:

1. Changing the land use designation for the property located at 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road from LDR – Low Density Residential (DeKalb County) to C – Commercial and High Density Residential (city of Decatur) and 1119 Clairemont Ave. from RL – Low Density Residential (city of Decatur) to C – Commercial and High Density Residential (city of Decatur).

The property at 1119 Clairemont Ave. is already in the city limits and was not part of the annexation petition for the neighboring properties.

2. Consideration of changing the zoning for the property located at 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road from O-I – Office-Institutional and R-75 Single Family Residential (DeKalb County) to PO – Professional Office District (city of Decatur) and 1119 Clairemont Ave. from R-60 Single Family Residential (city of Decatur) to PO – Professional Office District (city of Decatur).

3. Emory Heights, LLC has requested a conditional use permit to allow a medical office at 1119 Clairemont Ave., 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road.

4. Emory Heights, LLC has requested a special exception from Section 8.2.3.G.1. and 3. of the Decatur Unified Development Ordinance to construct parking between the sidewalk and the front of the building and within 30 feet of a public street for the proposed project at 1119 Clairemont Ave., 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road.

The planning commission added conditions to the conditional use permit. One would’ve required the tree canopy coverage on the property cannot be reduced below 60%, which is the requirement for residential zoning. The city commission approved the CUP with a condition that the tree canopy for the site shall not be reduced below its current canopy coverage, but in no case can it be reduced below what is required for a commercial property.

Per the tree ordinance, commercial, high-density residential, and institutional properties would have to reach at least 45% canopy coverage and would have to conserve 50% of existing fair or better-rated trees when a land disturbance permit is required or where the impervious area is increased. For commercial properties that have less than 45% canopy coverage when applying for a land disturbance permit, the property owner must apply for alternative compliance.

– The city commission adopted the tentative 2023 millage rate at 13.17 mills, which remains unchanged from 2022. 

The millage rate breaks down into four rates for the general fund, capital improvement fund, the downtown development authority, and debt service fund. Here are the proposed millage rates for each fund:

– General fund operating millage: 8.32

– Capital improvement fund millage: 2.27

– Decatur Development Authority: 0.38

– Debt service fund millage: 2.2

“The millage rates that are being recommended are the rates that we believe are needed to fund the [fiscal year] 2023-2024 proposed budget,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said. “As a reminder that these rates, as well as the budget, do assume a 5% increase in the digest.”

The city anticipates receiving the tax digest from DeKalb County in about one week. If Decatur’s millage rate is more than the rollback rate from the county, the city will have to hold a series of public hearings. The hearings would be held on June 13 and 20.

– The commission renewed an agreement between the city and Decatur Legacy Project, Inc. for the program and operational management of Legacy Park. The city commission approved the initial agreement in August 2020 and the term of the agreement expires on June 30, 2023. Under the renewed agreement, it would expire on June 30, 2026.

– Additionally, the city commission awarded a contract to Rite Lite Signs, Inc., in the amount of $69,504, and approved a project budget in the amount of $73,000 for wayfinding signage at Legacy Park. The first phase of the project includes 37 signs. 

“As activity at the park increases, the need for an expanded and uniform wayfinding signage program has become very important,” Deputy City Manager David Junger said. “The bid does include the removal of the existing signage that’s on-site, and it will be used at city parks around Decatur, including Oakhurst recreation facility.”

– The city commission approved a task order with Atkins North America in the amount of $76,000 and approved a project budget in the amount of $84,000 for traffic-calming design services for Coventry Road between Scott Boulevard and the city limit.

– The city of Decatur will host a hiring event from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17, at Legacy Park, 500 S. Columbia Drive. The city’s police, fire, public works, and parks and recreation departments have positions available.

Jobseekers are encouraged to register for the event and are asked to bring two forms of identification and relevant credentials. On-the-spot interviews and background checks will be conducted. To register and submit an online application, click here.

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