Upcoming Area Property Rezoning and How It Impacts You
Proposed changes to the DeKalb land use map may have substantial impacts to our future area including traffic, quality of life, and property values. Changes are being considered now by the planning commission and board of commissioners. Once these changes are made, they impact us for the next few decades.
The land use map indicates what desired future zoning is for entire areas such as Toco Hill, Mason Mill Park Area and the North Druid corridor. When a developer looks at a property and the land use map shows that it can be developed with a higher density or more commercial use, they have a much easier opportunity to have the property rezoned to that higher density or use. The land use map serves a valuable purpose in guiding the character of neighborhoods and future development.
The Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), created by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), is a planning and funding program designed to support innovative development within activity and town centers around the metropolitan area. The North Druid Hills LCI, which includes Toco Hill and Mason Mill Park, was developed over many years with input from citizens and businesses. It was passed in 2011 and the county is now, with much delay, attempting to update the land use map based on these recommendations.
Click here for the North Druid Hills LCI report: http://planningdekalb.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/NDH-LCI-Final-Report2.pdf
Click here for Toco Hill & Mason Mill Park LCI map: LP-16-20574 Community Maps
Toco Hill is currently on the land use map as a Town Center district that allows for a maximum of 8 story buildings, 60 living units/acre, townhomes, health care, retail, commercial, office, entertainment, and civic facilities. The LCI recommendation was for the area to be downgraded to Neighborhood Center which would reduce future development to a maximum of 4 stories, 24 units/acre, and more limited uses.
In the March 1, 2016 DeKalb Planning Commission meeting, commissioners were scheduled to vote to approved these changes. The Mason Mill Civic Association (MMCA), which has been monitoring this, was prepared to go along with the recommendations. During the meeting the planning staff reversed its recommendations and recommended to the commissioners that Toco Hill be maintained as a Town Center. Mary Hinkel (MMCA president), myself, and many neighborhood representatives and citizens recommended against the vote at that time and the commissioners agreed to postpone.
This past Tuesday, 3/15/16, neighborhood representatives from surrounding areas met with the planning staff to discuss issues. Neighborhood leaders discussed the pros and cons of the proposed changes and the question remains, what should be recommended for the Toco Hill node. Proposed changes also include Mason Mill Park area, and Briarcliff all the way up to Brookhaven at I85.
Transportation is a major issue that was incorporated into the LCI but is not being addressed as a condition to proceed with changes to the land use map. If we increase density and traffic, will the County be able to respond appropriately? Some leaders feel this should be addressed before approving the land use map changes. Once changes are made to the map, it could result in greater traffic. Alternatively, if the LCI recommendations are not adopted, what kind of unplanned development will we end up with, thousands of townhouses without appropriate commercial supporting properties and the same amount of traffic?
The DeKalb transportation study (2014) includes specific projects for our area. None of these projects are currently funded but could proceed with the approval of a future SPLOST or other options. Staff encouraged leaders to advocate with the SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee putting together the proposed SPLOST list so that our area does receive these improvements when funds come available.
Click here for SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee www.dekalbcountyga.gov/SPLOST/advisoryMeetings.html
Another point made by neighborhood leaders is that developer impact fees should be required to support improved infrastructure. This has not been approved by the board of commissioners and strains the county. Leaders should work with the commissioners to have this addressed.
COVE will continue to work with MMCA and in the scheduling of a meeting with the planning staff for neighbors. We’ll also coordinate on neighbors’ opportunities to advocate for proposed transportation changes for our area to be included on the SPLOST list and in commissioners approving impact fees for development projects.
Carl Lange, COVE Secretary and Board Member
March 17, 2016 – Pat Killingsworth, COVE President
Substitute Bill 378 was submitted by Sen. Fran Millar to, and quickly passed out of, the House Governmental Affairs Committee at a hastily called meeting at the Capitol yesterday afternoon. The bill was amended to remove the CEO position, keep the 7 Commission Districts as they are now, but adding an eighth countywide elected commission chair with significantly reduced authority than the CEO now has, and who can only vote to break a tie. A county manager who will be given a significant amount of authority will be appointed by the commissioners. All of the commissioners will have term limits. It is a major change from HB 1099 introduced by Rep. Holcomb at the beginning of the session, and Sen. Millar’s original SB 378, which was almost an exact duplicate of Rep. Holcomb’s original bill.
SR 421, which will establish a Charter Review Commission to make recommendations to the legislature for a new Charter has been amended and passed by the House and is now back in the Senate Committee awaiting final approval and placement on the Consent Calendar for a vote. It is possible that the General Assembly will approve both a November referendum on Senator Millar’s bill and the creation of a Charter Commission to be convened this summer that will research and make recommendations on the same matter.
Friends of Thomson Park Work Day This Saturday, 3/19/16
From Mason Mill Civic Association:
Come out and join your neighbors and other volunteers to work in Thomson Park from 9 a.m. to noon. Any time you can spare would be most appreciated. Friends Chair Patrick Noonan makes sure there are suitable jobs for every age and interest.
Remember, the Friends also can accept *tax-deductible* contributions! These will help greatly in 2016 and beyond, as we begin to rebuild some of the decaying structures in the park – steps, bridges and benches – and add a few new ones to make everyone’s visit easier, safer, and with a reduced environmental impact. (Remember to scroll down to “Thomson Park” on this Park Pride page: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E195170&id=5
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the (literally) hundreds of hours of work over the past few seasons. The Park is looking better each year, and the best is yet to come.
Coffee with a Cop, Tuesday, March 22
Meet and greet Precinct Command Staff and ask questions. This is a great opportunity to express any concerns or ask questions one-on-one of the police officers responsible for our area.
2016 “In the Know” Sessions
From DeKalb County Police Department Detective Al Fowler
The 2016 “In the Know” Sessions are scheduled for April 23, June 25 and October 1, 2016. Each date is a Saturday event and the time is 9:30am – 1pm. The events are held at the Public Safety Building at 1950 W. Exchange Place, Tucker, 30084. The subjects covered at each event will be published 2 weeks prior to each event. The DeKalb County Police department is dedicated to providing information to heighten awareness on topics such as N/W participation/maintenance, how to work with the police, community activity, safety information, court procedures, functions of County departments and many more.
Representative Elena Parent Newsletter
March 17, 2016
We have reached the 38th legislative day out of a total of 40. The last day of the session is called Sine Die and it is quickly approaching.
House Bill 859 allows people who have concealed carry permits to bring guns onto the campuses of our colleges and universities. The argument in favor is that it would increase public safety. I am unpersuaded by that argument. The fact is that adding guns into the mix at college does not make our kids safer. Below, you can watch the speech I made at the well during the Senate’s debate:
Specifically, I identified the fact that this bill would allow guns in the numerous day care centers that are on the campuses of our universities and technical colleges, and pointed out the issue that high school students as young as 14 attend classes on our college campuses through dual enrollment. The Senate voted not to allow amendments, so my attempt to get day care centers that are on campus removed from the areas in which guns can be carried was unsuccessful. There is a petition underway, which I have signed, to encourage Governor Deal not to sign the bill.
Shortly after I and others spoke out about these issues, Governor Deal released a statement indicating that without changes to the bill to account for day cares, dual enrollment, and others, he had serious concerns about campus carry. I welcome his statement and hope that we can make policies that do, in fact, make our kids safer. You can review the latest AJC coverage here.
Decatur Senior Tax Relief
I sponsored a number of local bills this year, including the DeKalb Charter Review Commission to study our form of government, and five bills providing tax relief for seniors in the City of Decatur. One of those, SB 343 which would provide an exemption from school taxes for seniors, has been held up in the House. The City of Decatur Commission, the School Board, and its seniors are in favor of this bill, and I have advocated on their behalf and will continue to push to get this bill to the Governor’s desk.
We hope to get this bill moving again and have it get its due consideration by the people who are affected by it. If you’d like to see this bill become law, you can help by reaching out to the Office of the Speaker of the House, David Ralston.
You may have heard that the comprehensive Marta bill (SB 330) was dead for this session, but there may be a local solution on the way. SB 369 was originally all about fireworks, but it has been gutted in committee and replaced by language creating two districts in Fulton, one City of Atlanta, and one the areas of Fulton that are not City of Atlanta, and allow each to levy separate sales taxes upon successful referenda. Atlanta’s would go for MARTA rail, and outside the city it would go towards roads and bridges. You can read all about it here.
DeKalb Governance and New Cities
Two bills here are of importance. First, the bill that came out of the study committee I chaired during the summer to make the process of municipalization more transparent and fair is currently languishing in the Governmental Affairs Committee in the House. It is SB 375. This bill would greatly improve the way in which we create cities in this state and we are working to make it the law. Senator Gooch, its sponsor, has a plan to get the bill moving. Watch this space.
The other bill to keep an eye on is SB 378 which would eliminate the CEO position in DeKalb County and redraw the Commission districts among other things. It is also in Governmental Affairs and I will update you on its progress.