Decatur City Commission sets priorities for 2024 during annual retreat(Back row, left to right) Decatur Assistant City Manager Cara Scharer, Commissioner George Dusenbury, Mayor Patti Garrett, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill, (front row) City Attorney Bryan Downs, Facilitator Michelle West, City Manager Andrea Arnold, Commissioner Lesa Mayer, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, Commissioner Kelly Walsh, Chief of Staff Meredith Roark and Deputy City Manager David Junger attended the city commission retreat on Jan. 4-5 in Young Harris, Ga. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission set its priorities for the year during its annual retreat at Brasstown Valley in Young Harris, Ga., on Jan. 4-5.
The priorities set were, in no particular order, road safety for pedestrians and drivers, the downtown experience, communications, parks and recreation, and affordable housing.
Here are some of the action items under each priority:
– Kicking off the Safe Streets for All planning process and looking at policy recommendations throughout the year.
The city has released a request for proposals for a consultant to develop its Safe Streets for All Action plan. The city commission will likely consider a contract for a consultant toward the end of March.
The city received a grant from the United States Department of Transportation in 2023 to develop the action plan.
“The purpose of the SS4A program is to improve roadway safety by significantly reducing or eliminating roadway fatalities and serious injuries through safety action plan development and implementation focused on all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users, motorists, personal conveyance and micromobility users, and commercial vehicle operators,” the RFP states.
The city is considering some policy changes as well, related to right turns on red and reducing speed limits. City Manager Andrea Arnold has recommended that these policies be part of the Safe Streets for All Action Plan.
– Developing recommendations around red light cameras.
“We do have a staff committee that is researching red light cameras with the expectation that they would be making a recommendation to the city commission,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said.
– Establishing an ambassador program.
– Kicking off the redesign of the Decatur Square and having construction drawings by the end of the year.
– Develop staff recommendations for providing resources to the unhoused population.
– Enhancing parking options in downtown Decatur.
The city commission had expressed a need for better signage about where to find public parking, having the rules and pricing posted online and at the parking lots, and evaluating the city’s parking price structure, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said.
Parking garages could also be improved with better lighting, painting, and creating placemaking on the exterior. Electric vehicle parking options may be expanded on city facilities as well as on-street options.
– Amending the city’s unified development ordinance as it relates to semi-public spaces and creating an art ordinance.
“In the [downtown] master plan and during the process, the city is investing a lot in our public spaces. What we’ve heard from the community and businesses is how do we leverage new development to also provide semi-public spaces and gathering spaces,” Threadgill said.
The city is looking to codify some requirements of new mixed-use developments that would create more semi-public spaces in the city.
– Streamlining communications
The commissioners discussed finding a way to streamline the city’s communications channels and get information out to residents seamlessly. They suggested looking at implementing a text-based notification system that residents could opt in to.
“If I get an email from Decatur Makeover or Decatur Next, I may not read that, that day, and it may be about something that’s happening the next day, whereas if somebody sends me a text I’m going to glance at it,” Mayor Patti Garrett said.
Parks and Recreation
– Have work sessions on the afterschool programs, as well as the department’s fees and staffing.
Commissioner Lesa Mayer said she would like to see the city increase the capacity of its afterschool programs to accommodate more students.
“I am deeply troubled by the lack of spots we have in our afterschool programs, specifically for our littles. I think that is significantly impactful to our families in Decatur. I feel like we need to invest more in our afterschool programs and what that looks like. I am also concerned about the cost associated with programming that we offer,” Mayer said.
“I doubt we can ramp up to accommodate everybody on the waiting list, but if we have just as many kids on a waitlist that are enrolled, that means we don’t have the capacity that we need,” she added.
– Conducting a facilities assessment
Commissioner Kelly Walsh encouraged the city to look at its current facilities, and maintenance needs and make some enhancements to get more out of the existing facilities.
“There’s probably a list of three to five of these things that I think could really move the needle, and it’s using what we have and making it a little bit better,” Walsh said.
– Coming up with a strategy to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.
– Kicking off the public input process for 600 Commerce Drive in the first quarter of the year.
The city commission established a project budget of $30,000 and approved a professional services agreement with MicroLife Institute for $27,500 to come up with a conceptual design for the city-owned property at 600 and 604 Commerce Drive in October 2023.
According to the proposal, MicroLife has proposed constructing a four-plex, or quadplex. Together, those parcels are about 0.57 acres and there is a 4,000-square-foot vacant home on the property. They are zoned R-60 single-family residential.
“The goal of this initiative is to give context and feasibility for a project to be built as an example of the newly passed zoning laws allowing up to four-plexes in residential zones in Decatur,” the application stated.
The properties on Landover and North Parkwood Road are slated to become public greenspace after the demolition. The city plans to release a request for proposals that includes the demolition of all three properties.
– The Decatur Land Trust
Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said the Decatur Land Trust is focused on completing the cottage court project and getting buyers lined up. The board is also focused on the Park 108 property, getting the Decatur Home ReHAB program going, and hiring an executive director.
Threadgill and Mayer are also both members of the Decatur Land Trust board. The land trust hopes to have the cottage court homes filled in the first quarter of the year.
The Oak Cottage Court development on Commerce Drive in Decatur is nearing completion. The Decatur Downtown Development Authority has been working with the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership [ANDP] and Fortas Homes to construct the project. The Decatur Land Trust will eventually own the land to help keep the home prices affordable.
A spokesperson for ANDP told Decaturish that they are in the homestretch of completing the interiors of the homes, and it’s anticipated they will be finished by the end of the month. Landscaping was set to begin earlier this month on the property.
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