Monday, February 3, 2020

Meeting this week on Kensington-Memorial Drive Overlay zoning

The county has scheduled a meeting Thursday night on zoning plan changes it wants to make along Covington Highway between Memorial Dr. and I-285 and in a separate area around I-285, Durham Park Rd. and Redan Rd., including the intersection of Redan and S. Indian Creek Dr.

More than two years after DeKalb County adopted two tiers of a Kensington Memorial Overlay District, the county's Department of Planning and Sustainability wants to give them new names and allow car-rental businesses along Covington Highway.

The department plans a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Covington Place Shopping Center, 4100 Covington Highway, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032. (A Dollar Tree opened in the shopping center last summer.)


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Former Sears, Sam's Club to become Stonecrest offices

The City of Stonecrest is proposing to move city offices into a former department store and an empty big-box retail space near Stonecrest Mall.

The city has filed a notice of "urban redevelopment" plans to make improvements to a former Sears department store on a 15-acre site at 8020 Mall Parkway so that it can be used as the city's Government Administration Services Building.

The Sears store at the Mall at Stonecrest opened in October 2001 and closed in December 2017. Last October, the Stonecrest City Council approved the purchase of the building for $2.1 million.

The city also wants to take the former Sam's Club at 2994 Turner Hill and turn it into a new City Hall for Stonecrest. The warehouse club store closed abruptly two years ago when Sam's Club closed 63 stores nationwide in one week.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Commissioner Cochran-Johnson hosts 2020 Voting Town Hall

There will be demonstrations on how to use DeKalb County's new voting machines at a Voting Town Hall to be hosted by Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson this coming Wednesday.

People can register to vote at the event, which takes place on Feb. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, 3181 Rainbow Dr., Decatur,

Representatives of the Georgia Secretary of State's office and the DeKalb Board of Registrations & Elections are expected to participate.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Taxpayer-funded study suggests Ferris wheel on Memorial Drive

A permanent Ferris wheel on Memorial Drive is one of the suggestions of the Memorial Drive Revitalization Corridor Plan, which says the the public is not asking for major changes along the thoroughfare that runs from Interstate 285 to Stone Mountain.

DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw last year allocated $140,000 of his District 4 reserves for the study. The county's Department of Planning and Sustainability Department contributed another $34,500 to help pay for the team of consultants.

"A permanent ferris wheel that that could be visible from Stone Mountain," is a potential concept for the area along Memorial Drive near Hambrick Rd., according to a portion of the report seen by PRISM DeKalb. Atlanta already has a 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel at Centennial Olympic Park.


The report says the public has asked to "preserve shopping plazas as they are" along Memorial Drive. It also says the public wants to "leave the corridor alone."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hearing tonight on county's dollar-store moratorium

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing tonight on an extension of the current 45-day moratorium on new applications for "small box discount stores."

A request by the Department of Planning & Sustainability to extend the moratorium for 180 days is on the agenda for the BOC's evening zoning meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. It is the last item on the agenda.

The agenda published for tonight's zoning meeting states that the moratorium extension is an "Item For Decision By The Board," meaning that there would be a vote but no public hearing, contrary to an announcement on the Department of Planning & Sustainability's web site.

Acknowledging the conflicting information, Interim County Attorney Vivian Ernstes urged commissioners to hold a public hearing at tonight's zoning meeting.

(See related story, "DeKalb County dollar-store moratorium vote Tuesday")

DeKalb commissioners delay vote on MARTA amendment

The DeKalb County Commission on Tuesday unanimously (7-0-0) deferred until next month action on a 15th MARTA contract amendment. Clayton and Fulton counties and the City of Atlanta are part of the agreement.

The amendment would allow "the collection of additional half penny and extension of time for the collection of the full one penny MARTA tax."

Commissioner Larry Johnson said the agreement would bring "much-needed assets into our areas of South DeKalb."

"We're not where we want to be, but we're not where we used to be," said Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson. "People need to know how expensive it is to maintain MARTA." She said that the amendment is independent of the idea of rail service to Stonecrest.

The amendment has been criticized by activist Ed Williams, who says "anybody who supports or extends the current MARTA contract and its amendments should be removed from office."

"Fifty years after the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, MARTA wants to deny citizens their right to vote in a referendum to extend the sales tax as the law requires. DeKalb and Fulton, and the City of Atlanta have been members for almost 50 years. What do we get for it? MARTA offers us more debt, no more transparency, no referendum, no new project list, no new train stations, and less control of our sales tax or investments," Williams wrote in a commentary for the Atlanta Daily World web site.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader noted that the county's deadline for action is February 17 and failure to vote would be considered a sign of "disapproval."

Clayton County has delayed a vote on the amendment until Feb. 4.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Clarkston mayor to run for DeKalb County Commission

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry says he will abandon his effort to run for the U.S. Senate and will instead seek election to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

Taylor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he will resign as mayor of Clarkston in March so that he can run for the District 6 seat now held by Kathie Gannon, who represents the western half of DeKalb County. Gannon announced earlier this month that she would not seek re-election.

DeKalb County dollar-store moratorium vote Tuesday

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will Tuesday consider an extension of the current 45-day moratorium on zoning applications for "small box discount stores."

The county has issued conflicting information on when there will be public hearings on extending the moratorium, making it unclear when citizens can comment on the proposal and when commissioners will vote on it.

It now appears that the Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposal on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. But they won't vote on it at that meeting. Apparently, commissioners will vote on the moratorium extension at their evening zoning meeting. It will be the last item on the lengthy zoning agenda Tuesday evening and it appears that the public will not be able to comment on the proposal.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Renovation begins of Stone Mountain library after delays

Asbestos abatement work has begun at the Stone Mountain-Sue Kellogg Library, more than six months after the downtown Stone Mountain library was closed for a $1.5 million renovation.
While a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation was held last July, there had been no obvious signs of work at the branch until this month. The branch was closed on June 15 to prepare for the renovation.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Clarkston to consider Baptist expansion plans

A public hearing has been scheduled at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, by the City of Clarkston on a proposal by the Southern Baptist Convention to build athletic fields and facilities at 961 Rowland St. and 3673 Hill St.

The application by the denomination's North American Mission Board asks for a conditional use permit in support of the church's mission and church-related activities.

A DeKalb Superior Court judge ruled last month that the North American Mission Board had the right to request demolition of two historic homes. NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the homes were "generic houses that are vacant and uninhabitable."

DeKalb state legislator urges hair discrimination protection

A state Senator from Lithonia has proposed legislation to protect people with "braids, locks, twists or other textured hairdressing historically associated with an individual's race," the Associated Press reports.

Senate Bill 286, filed by State Sen. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), has the support of State Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta), who says she was told last year by another legislator that she looked better without her braids.

"No individual shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of such individual's protective hairstyle," unless it interferes with their work, the proposal says.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

$148,000 settlement in DeKalb County excessive force case

DeKalb County has agreed to pay $148,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed sheriff's deputies used excessive force in July 2013 when they served a warrant over a $1,000 fee in the middle of the night at an Ellenwood home.

After a two-hour executive session that included another matter, DeKalb County commissioners voted on Tuesday to approve the settlement of remaining claims by Donovan Hall and others against Sgt. Dan McGhee and others in return for a dismissal with prejudice of the lawsuit that they filed (15-CV-00428).

Clarkston plans Jan. 27 annexation hearing

The City of Clarkston has scheduled a public meeting on Jan. 27 on its proposal to annex 620 acres that include two neighborhoods south of the city

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the city has scaled back an earlier proposal that would have annexed a broader area that included North DeKalb Mall and DeKalb County's 40-acre Little Creek Horse Farm.

The city says the town hall meeting will take place on Monday, Jan. 27, at the Clarkston Community Center at 7 p.m.

The annexation can only take place if approved by the General Assembly and a referendum involving residents in the proposed annexation area.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Commissioner Kathie Gannon won't seek re-election

District 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who was first elected in 2004, does not plan to seek another term in office.
A written statement from Gannon says it is time "for the next generation to move on up, to provide the energy, initiative and new ideas to build upon what we have started to continue progressive movement forward in DeKalb County."

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Clarkston halts curbside recycling because of rising costs

Clarkston has ended curbside recycling in the city and plans to open a temporary recycling location before the end of January.

The city says Waste Management, which handles the city's trash collections, wanted a 20 percent fee increase to continue to provide curbside recycling collection.

"Waste Management advis[es] the City that a very large percentage of recycling collected ends up in the landfill due to contamination," a statement from the city says.

Ten percent increase in Stone Mountain City budget

The City of Stone Mountain has posted the adopted version of its $4.696 million FY2020 budget, which is 10 percent larger than its 2019 budget. Approximately $80,000 was added to the budget during the budget process, with the money coming from taxes and "other financing sources."

The city's Downtown Development Authority accounts for 10 percent of the city's budget. It will receive more than $465,000 from the city, a figure that represents more than 99 percent of the DDA's budget.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Bradshaw chosen to preside over DeKalb County Board of Commissioners

DeKalb County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to name Commissioner Steve Bradshaw as their Presiding Officer for the next two years. Commissioners voted 7-0-0 in favor of Bradshaw, whose nomination by Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson was seconded by Commissioner Larry Johnson.

Commissioner Jeff Rader, who has been the Presiding Officer for the last two years, said he was looking forward to voting for Bradshaw. "He has served as deputy for the past two years. I believe he will serve admirably in the role of presiding officer," Rader said.

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson was elected Deputy Presiding Officer of the BOC by a 6-0-1 vote. Cochran-Johnson was nominated by Mereda Davis Johnson. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Nancy Jester.

Commissioner Larry Johnson, who was the Presiding Officer from 2009 through 2013 and again from 2014 through January 2017, abstained from voting for Cochran-Johnson on Tuesday but offered no explanation as to why. He also did not vote when Rader was elected as presiding officer in 2018.

King Day ceremony for Stone Mountain street renaming

The City of Stone Mountain will celebrate the renaming of a street in the city's Shermantown neighborhood on the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday on Monday.

A commemorative service is planned at the St. Paul AME Church, 821 3rd St., at 10 a.m.

After the service, there will be a march from the church for the unveiling of the street sign for Eva Mamie Lane, replacing the former Venable St. name. After the unveiling, a ceremony will be held to ring the Freedom Bell on the city's Main St.

Monday, January 13, 2020

DeKalb Elections Board is pressed on outside audit

The DeKalb Board of Registration & Elections voted Thursday to cooperate with outside consultants hired by the county's Board of Commissioners to assess the operations of the election board.

After hearing complaints about irregularities during the 2018 general election, county commissioners voted unanimously in March asking the county's "Chief Audit Executive to Add an Operational Review to Include a Fiscal and Performance Audit of the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Department."

Commissioners said the audit should include a review of how voter registration applications are handled and the procedures for handling voter irregularities.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

New year starts with a dozen DeKalb County sewer spills

There were 12 sanitary sewer overflows reported in DeKalb County during the first 10 days of 2020, according to a list included in Commissioner Nancy Jester's weekly newsletter.

Two of the spills were described as major spills, both occuring on Friday, Jan. 3. One was at 2171 Carson Valley Dr. in Tucker. The other was at 1707 Childerlee Lane in Atlanta.

In the Tucker incident, 12,300 gallons spilled from an 8-inch sewer main because of an unknown blockage. The other spill was of 74,100 gallons from a manhole getting into North Fork Peachtree Creek because of rainfall. More than an inch of rain was recorded at Peachtree DeKalb Airport on Jan. 3.

Stone Mountain seeks zoning, historic preservation panel members

The City of Stone Mountain is calling for volunteers to serve on the city's Planning & Zoning Committee and its Historic Preservation Commission.

The city has posted notices asking for letters and/or resumes from those interested in serving on either panel. They should be sent by Wednesday, Jan. 15, to Mayor Patricia Wheeler, Stone Mountain City Hall, 875 Main St., Stone Mountain GA 30083.

While Historic Preservation Commission members must have lived in the city for one year before taking office, there is no requirement that Planning & Zoning Committee members be residents of the City of Stone Mountain.

The posted notice says appointments to the Planning & Zoning Committee require a nomination by the mayor. However, the Stone Mountain city code says "all members of boards, commissions, and authorities of the city shall be appointed by the city council." No mention is made of the mayor nominating Planning & Zoning Committee members.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Subdivision plat approved for 80-home Valley Brook Rd. subdivision

The DeKalb County Planning Commission has unanimously approved the subdivision sketch plat for a development of 80 single-family detached homes at Valley Brook Rd. and Ford Place.

Having obtained a rezoning from R75 to RSM (Small Lot Residential), Bryan Flint of Arrowhead Real Estate Partners submitted plans for the 12.4-acre subdivision. Barbara Scott and Ray Glieu spoke in opposition to the plat.

DeKalb County's Planning & Sustainability Department had recommended approval of the site plan, but noted that sewer capacity will have to be approved prior to the issuance of a Land Disturbance Permit.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Lithonia seeks annexation study for completion by summer

The City of Lithonia has issued a Request For Proposals for a study on annexation by the city. The city expects to pay less than $20,000 for the study and have a final report by the middle of June.

The RFP asks for a study of the likely fiscal impacts of a possible annexation of an unincorporated area into the City of Lithonia. The scope of work would not include identifying an area to be annexed. The RFP does not provide any information about the city's annexation plans.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Nine candidates for DeKalb County Sheriff special election in March

Nine candidates have qualified for the special election of a DeKalb County Sheriff on March 24, the date of Georgia's presidential primary. All of the candidates claim a law-enforcement background.

The election will determine who serves the last nine months of the unexpired term of former Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, whose elected term is scheduled to end in December 2020.

Mann won election as sheriff in a July 2014 runoff where he defeated former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones with more than 76 percent of the vote. Deputy Chief Melody Maddox, who is among those running for the position, became sheriff after Mann announced his retirement in November.

If a runoff is needed, the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections says it would take place on April 21. The last day to register to vote in the special election is February 24.

Here is the list of candidates, along with party affiliations and occupations, as stated on their qualifying forms. Phone numbers and web sites are included if this information was posted by the county election office. Georgia law allows candidates to choose whether their addresses, phone numbers and other personal information are disclosed to the public.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

DeKalb County pays $320,000 to settle sewage whistleblower lawsuit

DeKalb County commissioners on Tuesday voted to pay $320,000 to a former compliance inspector in the county's Public Works department to settle a federal whistleblower lawsuit against the county.

The unanimous vote to approve the payment came after a 45-minute executive session of the Board of Commissioners. The $320,000 gross payment is in return for dismissal with prejudice of a U.S. District Court lawsuit.

DeKalb County objects to Brookhaven's Druid Hills annexation plan

DeKalb County is objecting to a proposal by the City of Brookhaven to annex almost seven acres at Briarcliff Rd. and North Druid Hills Rd., including the Briarcliff Station shopping center, to allow for almost 400 apartments and a 7-story hotel at higher density than county regulations would allow.


The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning unanimously voted to begin the process of objecting to the annexation petition it received from Brookhaven in late December. The county has 30 days to file an objection.

"There are valid objections that can be filed," Deputy County Attorney Vivian Ernstes told commissioners during a meeting of the commission's Committee of the Whole.