Northwoods Overlay Committee

April 2019

 

Tonight we had a "vote" at the city council worksession about the creation of an official city council initiated committee to oversee recommendations for an overlay zoning district in one of the neighborhoods in Doraville. It became a narrowly defined "Do you support the creation of an official city sponsored citizen committee to study a possible overlay district for one neighborhood in Doraville or not". I voted no and below I will explain the reasons I voted no, as well as what I was willing to support.

 

1) No one could tell us what this overlay is about, where it is being proposed, nor what it is actually trying to accomplish. It vaguely sounds like some people want to block all new style infill development and possibly restrict all new construction to small ranch style homes. This is not the future vision I have heard from most residents of Doraville. But no one could answer even that much. I could understand if they wanted architectural standards created to match the mid-century modern homes, but they did specifically say they don't want that. The size of any homes in R1 is restricted to 5000 sq ft  and 5 bedrooms so real "McMansions" can't be built here anyway.


2) Staff time. No one did any research into the staff time this would require, and what other projects we will have to put on hold to manage this committee. Or even a timeline for this. To think this would take no staff time is being unrealistic, as all official meetings require an agenda is created and posted, minutes are taken and then posted within two days of the meeting, etc. All the stuff GA open meeting laws require. I'm going to assume they want this live streamed like all our other meetings are too. Staff will need to be there to answer questions and do research as needed, which clearly will need to be done as there are a lot of questions and confusion about what this even is. Then to be effective, the committee members will need some training of some sort, and time with staff to understand what the current zoning code says.

3) And not knowing what they want, it's very possible people city wide might want the same thing, if we knew what it is they are trying to accomplish. I wasn't going to vote yes to have city resources used for just one neighborhood, without some initial clarity on what we are trying to do here, and exclude everyone else in the city from the conversation on residential redevelopment. Nothing convinced me this "something" (which we don't even know what it is) is a Northwoods only issue.

4) There is no structure in place to even create advisory committees in Doraville. The city has to ensure open meeting are followed, as well as a set of rules that needs to be abided by. Who is ultimately in charge of managing an official committee of the council? In addition, what authority they are being given. None of this is spelled out anywhere in our ordinances. That groundwork needs to be done first.

What I did agree to was: that we have an official public town hall meeting and gather citizen input on this overlay and what the citizens want from it. Or even if the majority of citizens want one. This initial meeting would clarify what it is we are even trying to do here, and if there is a consensus of the citizens to move forward with something, and what it actually might look like, before we expend a lot of city resources creating a committee. I still don't understand why having a town hall meeting first was a problem.

And if at this town hall meeting, there was some clarity on what this is, it sounded like it is truly a Northwoods only problem, and there is citizen support, I would have fully supported moving forward with a committee creation. But I still think that first an ordinance on committee creation should be created before this is started.

As it is, this initial official town hall meeting wasn't an option on the table. I was asked to vote to go straight to creating a committee or not. In my opinion, we are ahead of ourselves setting up a committee on this. I'm sure some people are upset with my vote, but I will never vote yes on something this open ended, without some clarity on what it is supposed to be accomplishing, and if the majority of people even want to do it, before expending our limited city resources! 

Stephe Koontz, Doraville City Council District 3

678-373-7021 City Cell

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