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Stone Mountain City Council approves short-term rental after outpouring of community support

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Stone Mountain City Council approves short-term rental after outpouring of community support

Elisabeth and Troy Richmond mid renovation. Photo provided to Decaturish

This story has been updated. 

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council met on Oct. 3 and held a public hearing, then unanimously approved special and conditional use permits for 5163 Poplar Springs Road. 

The property contains a three-bedroom home with a basement and a small camper. The permits allow for, respectively, one accessory dwelling unit on the property and for that unit to be used as a short-term rental. City staff recommended approval of both permits with conditions. 

Elisabeth and Troy Richmond bought the property at 5163 Poplar Springs Road around 14 months ago and began the process of extensive renovations. Prior to the Richmonds’ purchase, the property had been abandoned for over 20 years. 

“The place was basically condemned, we were staying in a tent in the living room,” said Troy Richmond. “Code enforcement officers were like ‘this place is dangerous, you can’t stay in here, don’t make us arrest you,'” continued Troy, recalling the early days of the process.  

In order to adhere to the city code, the Richmonds purchased a camper to live in while they finished renovating the property. Once the renovations to the upstairs had finished, the Richmonds moved into the house but started having consistent issues with flooding in the basement. This ended up being a substantial and ongoing plumbing problem. 

“We spent our entire savings…and then some renovating this place, Fixing it, clearing it out, making it safe, making it habitable,” said Elisabeth Richmond, addressing the council and the public.   

The Richmonds manage several short-term rentals and had the idea to renovate and rent out their camper, in order to offset some of the costs that had arisen. They were seeking permits in order to approve this. 

After making their case to the council and the public, multiple meeting attendees got up and spoke in favor of the permits, bringing the Richmonds to tears.

Following this moving scene, the council approved both permits with conditions that notably limited the property to one accessory dwelling unit but allowed for the conditional use permit for short-term rental to transfer to the basement once the renovation has completely finished and the plumbing issue is resolved. 

“This is why we poured our funds, hearts, savings, and love into this home, because we want to live in a place where strangers come and fight for you at city hall,” Elisabeth Richmond said. 

In other news:

CPL presented a traffic study for 4th Street from Lucille Avenue to Mason Lane.

The street serves as an alternative to Main Street and the study designated it as a “serious problem” and reported that traffic-calming measures were warranted.

The study recommended rubber “speed cushions”, but Councilmember Gina Stroud Cox reported that residents wanted asphalt speed bumps, and City Manager Darnetta Tyus passed on the petitions needed to move forward with this alternative.

The petitions are necessary as the increased cost of the asphalt speed humps would be paid for by an additional tax levied on the citizens of the adjacent area. Several people spoke in favor of the traffic calming but also said that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the citizens to pay an extra cost for their safety. The council unanimously approved the study, officially beginning the petition process.

— The city announced that the RFP process had begun for another round of street resurfacing based on the SPLOST I list of priority infrastructure improvements.

The street projects include Main Street from Poole Street to James B. Rivers Memorial Drive, Poole Street to West Mountain Street, Churchill Court, Baltic Court, Leland Drive, Brittany Drive, and Silver Hill Road from East Ponce de Leon Avenue to the city limit.

This list is from 2017 and will be paid for by SPLOST I money. As a part of this same process of utilizing remaining SPLOST I funds to address priorities, City Manager Tyus announced that four parks have had their bathroom renovation needs assessed, and this assessment has been sent to a design firm to come up with a final cost for these renovations.

— City Manager Tyus reported on the ongoing process of addressing sinkholes in the city.  Six sinkholes are currently being addressed by the city’s public works team, headed by the new Stormwater Manager Jonathan Eggelston. The stormwater manager is also putting together a list of materials and equipment that the city can use to address these and the rest of the sinkholes in the city. Tyus gave notice that the equipment list would be finalized soon and sent to the council.

— Tyus gave a brief overview of the financial processes that the city is working on. Tyus said the city is currently ensuring financial reports from 2023 are up-to-date and organized for budget season while conducting an Internal review of expenses as a part of the introductory stages of the budget process. 

Tyus said staff is taking input from the council on things staff should be looking out for at this early stage, and reported that the fieldwork portion of the 2022 audit will begin Dec. 4.

— An internal communication error was brought to light that has been causing consistent public confrontations between members of city staff and members of the city council. The city communication team’s emails updating the council on what is being worked on in advance of council meetings have been going straight to council members’ spam folders, despite sharing a domain. This has led to a frustrated council, expressing they feel out of the loop going into council meetings, and a frustrated staff that their attempts to communicate are going unrecognized. With the issue identified, Tyus committed to assigning the right personnel to resolve it, which should be a major boon to the city’s internal communication. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled a name. This story has been updated with the correct information. 

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