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Avondale Estates City Commission approves land disturbance ordinance

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Avondale Estates City Commission approves land disturbance ordinance

Avondale Estates City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission, at its Sept. 13 regular meeting, approved a land disturbance permit ordinance, which seeks to tighten some guidelines in the zoning code and offer additional guidance to the land disturbance permit process.

At the last city commission meeting, the board brought the ordinance back to a first reading due to changes that were made to the draft ordinance, so the second reading was held on Wednesday night. The differences included adding a section that requires a minor land disturbance permit for grading of an area of any size, and/or replacing or expanding a driveway of any size.

Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell previously outlined a few problems the city is facing when it comes to stormwater. The city has a form residents can fill out to report issues. The system was put in place in October 2022.

“In less than a year, we’ve had over 80 reports submitted to us or complaints, and of those, over 40 of them have been about stormwater,” Powell previously said. “It is a daily routine for us to have conversations about what’s happening on private property and in our own infrastructure.”

According to the ordinance, the purpose is to protect the city’s stormwater infrastructure and private property in Avondale Estates from impacts associated with land disturbance.

Land disturbance is defined as “any activity which may result in soil erosion or the movement of soil or dirt, including but not limited to removal of vegetation or the grubbing, stripping, clearing, dredging, grading, excavating, transporting, or filling of land.”

A land disturbance permit is required for the construction of a new structure or any addition to an existing structure, when 1,000 or more square feet of impervious surface is added to any lot, and land disturbance of over 5,000 square feet of land. A permit is also required when an impervious surface is added to a lot that exceeds the maximum lot coverage.

The ordinance also provides for exemptions for home gardening or landscaping projects, grading or land disturbance on public property by the city, work on transportation projects, building a shed or accessory structure, and the maintenance or improvement of an existing structure that does not involve land disturbance or adding an impervious surface.

The ordinance also creates a minor land disturbance permit for “grading of an area of any size and/or replacing or expanding a driveway of any size,” the ordinance states.

The city hopes the new ordinance will improve stormwater runoff issues. Powell previously said that many residents have the same problems when rainwater quickly rushes down their driveways onto neighbors’ yards and eventually into the city’s stormwater system.

“The two biggest sources of impervious water comes from our roofs and our driveways, and that driveway is functioning as a funnel,” Powell said.

When residents request a permit to replace their driveway, the city wants them to consider including stormwater improvements, such as downspouts in the yard. Outside the ordinance process, Powell and city staff are educating residents on how to mitigate excessive stormwater runoff in their yards.

“It’s another great step in managing our stormwater, and it’s just one piece of it,” Commissioner Lisa Shortell said.

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher had raised concerns about the ordinance and previously recommended the city change the cost structure of addressing stormwater. But on Wednesday night, he said the ordinance will require the city to do the right thing when it comes to stormwater.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s an ordinance that’ll require us to do the right thing by our neighbors, by our city to try to reduce some of the impact that stormwater has on our properties,” Fisher said. “As the city continues to mature, you’re going to see that we’ll have further things because stormwater is probably our largest infrastructure challenge that we have to deal with now and into the future.”

In other business:

– During commissioner comments, City Manager Patrick Bryant said the city has released a request for proposals for sanitation services that include solid waste disposal and recycling. The city commission has been considering making changes to sanitation services and shifting away from backdoor garbage collection.

“This is the next step in the information gathering process for staff in order for the board to make a more informed decision about the direction of the sanitation program moving forward,” Bryant said. “We anticipate those proposals to be returned near the end of October. Following the return of those proposals, staff will go through them, parse out the information, and bring them to the board for future consideration.”

Resident Phillip Feibish encouraged the city to consider DeKalb County as a possible vendor for the city’s sanitation services.

“I think the city has been talking about going to once a week service, maybe curbside, so it’s going to be a comparable service to what DeKalb County provides at a huge cost savings to residents if that’s an appropriate choice,” Feibish said.

Bryant added that DeKalb County is aware of the RFP, and it’s up to the county to make a proposal to the city to provide sanitation services.

– Mayor Jonathan Elmore noted that Avondale Estates was placed in the top 15 national rankings by Opendoor for family-friendly cities.

“We’re there with some pretty big cities, and I was pretty happy about that,” Elmore said.

For the second year, the city ranked at No. 15 on the family-friendly cities list. Avondale Estates was the only Georgia city to make the list, according to a press release.

“According to Opendoor, if you’re seeking a small-town feel with big-city amenities nearby, look no further than Avondale Estates,” a press release from the city states.

Avondale was recognized for providing family-centric programming, such as Atlanta Pride’s annual family fun day, Storywalks at the Town Green for Juneteenth and Hispanic Heritage Month, the Fourth of July parade, National Night Out, and concerts on the Town Green, among other activities.

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