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Decatur City Commission approves annexation of 1121, 1123 Clairmont Road

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Decatur City Commission approves annexation of 1121, 1123 Clairmont Road

The Decatur City Commission annexed 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road into the city during its regular meeting on May 15, 2023. Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur.

Decatur, GA — The city limits of Decatur will expand slightly on Clairemont Avenue. At its May 15 regular meeting, the Decatur City Commission approved an annexation ordinance to bring the properties of 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road into the city. 

The city commission also approved a few other recommendations from the planning commission related to the land use and zoning of those properties. Emory Heights, LLC is also seeking to expand its Humanly operations.

Humanly is a private office and co-working space for mental health therapists and is currently located at 1123 Clairemont Road.

Anamaria Hazard, an attorney with Dentons, was representing Emory Heights. Humanly currently operates at 1123 Clairmont Road. The property at 1121 is a residual parcel, and 1119 has an abandoned home on the site. 

“Our plan here would be to consolidate all three lots and to expand that Humanly use to the 1119 site without changing the structures,” Hazard said. “The change to the structures will largely be cosmetic and to bring them up to code. We’re adding in a few windows, so it’s not so dark in there, and some parking spaces. There won’t be any major expansion or any major construction of any of the structures.”

There will be one point of ingress and one point of egress on the property. Emory Heights proposed moving the parking lot further away from the property line and will retain the existing landscape buffer. The property owner is asking for 25 parking spaces. 

The land use designation for 1121 and 1123 Clairmont Road was changed from LDR – low-density residential (DeKalb County) to C – commercial and high-density Residential (city of Decatur). The zoning for these properties was changed from OI – office institutional and R-75 single-family residential (DeKalb County) to PO – professional office district (city of Decatur). 

The property at 1119 Clairemont Ave. is already within the city limits and was not part of the annexation petition for the neighboring properties. It already had city of Decatur land use and zoning designations. 

The land use designation for 1119 Clairemont Ave. was changed from RL – low-density residential to C – commercial and high-density residential as well. The property was also rezoned from R-60 single-family residential to PO – professional office district. 

The professional office district zoning designation allows for a medical office with a conditional use permit. The city commission did approve the conditional use permit for the properties. 

The planning commission recommended some conditions be added to the conditional use permit. The city commission approved the conditional use permit (CUP) with conditions but made a couple of changes to them. 

Here are the conditions: 

– For the entire distance along the east and south abutting property lines, a solid fence of at least six feet in height or a landscaped buffer must be installed to provide a dense, solid screen. The fence or buffer has to be installed within three years and be maintained for the duration of the CUP. 

– No major amendments to the CUP can be made unless they have been applied for and approved by the city commission with a recommendation from the planning commission. 

– The requirements of the CUP will be required of the property owner and all subsequent owners. 

– The property must be developed according to plans substantially similar to those submitted. The proposed rear parking lot of 1119 Clairemont Ave. has to be set back from the south property line to allow enough space to install fencing or a landscaped buffer. The front parking lot of this parcel also cannot exceed the dimensions required for one ADA handicap-accessible parking space. 

The city commission amended this condition to say that the front parking lot of 1119 Clairemont Ave. can be maintained and include one ADA-accessible handicap parking space. 

This condition also applies to the special exception Emory Heights requested. The city commission approved a special exception from the unified development ordinance to construct parking between the sidewalk and the front of the building. 

“We would like to utilize the existing space, which might mean a slightly bigger handicap space,” Hazard said. “Instead of restricting that pad to the size of a handicap space, we would like it restricted to the size currently existing, and we would agree to only put one handicap space there.”

– 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.

Hazard said that as long as the trees are healthy, Emory Heights intends to keep them, but one tree may have to be removed for the parking pad. She added that the property owners do not know what the current tree canopy coverage is. 

“We’re not going to go in and cut trees, but we would like to be able to maintain the standard that is already there and not increase it,” Hazard said of the 60% tree canopy condition. “We don’t know if this condition is increasing what’s already on the site or not because we haven’t had enough time to review that.”

Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill and City Manager Andrea Arnold were hesitant to recommend approval of the 60% tree canopy coverage condition. 

Without having a current tree survey, Threadgill was concerned about how the 60% tree canopy coverage could be achieved and if the applicant would have to add canopy coverage to meet the requirement. 

“I heard the criteria for requiring the 60% was based off of the current zoning, the R-60, but that would only be for the lot that’s currently in the city of Decatur,” Arnold said. “The other large lot is zoned office institutional. I would caution against maybe hanging our hat on that criteria.” 

She added that the 60% canopy coverage may make sense for the city parcel, but, “I have some reservation about that being the criteria” for all three parcels. 

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