On 2/15/14, three FHNA board members and Forrest Hills residents met with the mayor of Avondale Estates to discuss the questions and comments raised by FH neighbors (posted on this website, as well as the google group and the Facebook page). Here are the minutes of that meeting (Thanks Josh!)
On Saturday February 15th three Forrest Hills residents, Brooke Doan, Stephen Smith, and Josh McDowell met with the mayor of Avondale Estates Ed Rieker to discuss the topic of annexation of Forrest Hills into Avondale Estates.
The meeting started with the mayor explaining why Avondale Estates is interested in annexing bordering neighborhoods and also their business development plans for the future. Some of the business development discussion was in response to a question below but most of the discussion is covered in their 2014 master plan on the website.
Currently Avondale borders pockets of unincorporated DeKalb County. These pockets are receiving reduced services such as government representation and police from the county. Avondale feels that by providing better local services to their surrounding neighborhoods they can improve their local community.
We then got into the questions posed via email, google group, facebook group and the website by residents of Forrest Hills.
What other areas are being considered for annexation?
Currently Avondale is looking at expanding their border west down college to Arcadia, down through Katie Kerr to Columbia, and then down Columbia to the paint store on Clarendon which is currently Avondale Estates. This would include the apartments on college (Next to Pizza Café), Decatur Terrace (the Craigie neighborhood), the neighborhoods on Katie Kerr, and Forrest Hills which includes the Museum School. This would also include the abandon apartments on Craigie. Avondale is very interested is doing something about those apartments. They looked into purchasing those apartments however there were 6 separate owners, some of which only owned 1 building, and some of which were in bankruptcy and it was not possible. Annexing those apartments would assist that.
They are also at looking at extending their border north down Laredo up to & including the Farmer’s market. This would bring in more commercial revenue which Avondale is looking for to assist in future plans and to assist in annexing the local residential areas. For the residential annexations the increase in tax revenue is about a wash once extra cost are taken into account. Commercial annexations assist with the extra cost.
If annexed would Forrest Hills have access to the swim/tennis club?
The swim & tennis club is 100% separate from the city and a private club that has its own board which makes decisions on membership. If interested, we could petition that board for access to membership. The mayor believes they are usually looking for members though. The city does own 1 or 2 tennis courts which residents would have access to.
Are backyard chickens allowed in Avondale Estates? What about bees ?
Avondale Estates has the same regulations as DeKalb county regarding livestock. They do not have an ordinance specifically allowing backyard chickens like Decatur. Same thing with bees. There may or may not be people with one or the other in AE.
Home businesses restrictions?
Home businesses are allowed in Avondale and any restriction or regulation would be the same as DeKalb county.
What are the Business license fees?
The application fee is $60. The license fee varies depending on type of business and more information can be obtained at city hall.
Any ordinances against parking on the street ?
All ordinances regarding parking on the street would be the same as DeKalb county and traffic laws would need to be obeyed. There are certain streets in Avondale Estates that you may only park on one side or the other. Avondale would not change anything in Forrest Hills.
Tax increases ?
Taxes would increase slightly because the city would be providing more services to Forrest Hills. Please see the tax spreadsheet I posted in google docs for detailed information on changes for you home.
Would property tax appraisal values change ?
DeKalb county would still handle those appraisals and your value would not change upon annexation. There is always a potential for home values to increase and DeKalb to increase the appraisal on your home.
The current ratio of police officers per resident is 1 to 228. Would this change with annexation of other areas?
Avondale intends to higher more officers to keep this ratio very close to the same. Based on their current feelings this a great ratio to keep their areas patrolled and presence felt.
Average police response time ?
We would need to contact the Police Chief for this information.
Number of patrols per day & per night ?
Again we would need to contact the Police Chief, however Avondale’s current policy is they want enough patrols that both police and citizen patrols are frequently seen to give a comfortable police presence. Avondale likes to have the same officers patrolling the same areas so they recognize people and cars in those areas. You can also submit an out of town form and the police will check up on your home while you are out of town.
Benefit of Domestic Partnership Registry?
A webpage was provided explaining this.
Explain Backyard Garbage Pickup?
Avondale does not require you to put you trash on the curb but you can if you would like. They will pickup from the back or side of your house as a convenience to you. They try to design their services for more of a small town feel.
Are there any major or specific differences between county codes & ordinances and Avondale?
The mayor believes the majority of the views of strict Avondale ordinances come from the restrictions within the Avondale historic district. This designated area is very specific and has restrictions based on the National Register of Historic Places. More information can be found on the Avondale Estates website. None of these restrictions would apply to Forrest Hills. Most codes & ordinances would be the same as DeKalb county.
Is there specific home or front area ordinances regarding fences and exterior changes to homes?
Again anything about this would be the same as DeKalb and anything specific restrictions you may have heard about probably have to do with homes within the Avondale historic district.
Would an RV be allowed in the driveway or would it required to be in storage?
Again this would be the same as DeKalb. The mayor mentioned he did own an RV at one point in DeKalb and was not allowed to store it in his driveway.
“No address change after annexation” – Would FH city still be Decatur or was that meant for other neighborhoods?
Everyone within Forrest Hills would keep the exact same address, “Decatur GA 30030” included. To change your street, city, or zip you must petition the United States Postal service. Avondale is not interested in making Forrest Hills change our address. If it is something we wanted to do, they would assist.
Would Avondale be interested in taking over our neighborhood green space (Walter’s Woods)?
The mayor was very interested in this. Avondale really likes having small parks and green space spread throughout their area. Avondale would take over the green space. Their current parks & recreation crew would handle on maintenance for us.
What plans are there for improving the current & future condition of Avondale Elementary?
Avondale would love to improve the local schools the children of their residents attend. They feel that education & security are the two largest issues for their residents. However, this is clearly legislated to be 100% separate from the city government and all improvements & changes must currently be done at the county school board level.
Would Avondale advocate if DeKalb county tries to redistrict FH to a crappy middle & high school (again)?
Avondale would 100% be an advocate for Forrest Hills to remain where they are at. The mayor personally called the superintendent on the last redistrict attempt to say we needed to be left where we were.
Can someone Avondale attend our upcoming spring meeting to present annexation plans and answer questions?
Someone would definitely like to attend our next meeting. At the FHNA board’s March meeting we will be scheduling the spring meeting and will set the agenda for the meeting. I will reach out to the mayor with our schedule.
What affect will this have on the retirement community being built at the end of FH?
This will have no affect, they will have the same zoning & building codes as the county. Avondale is actively seeking senior living developments and would like to have this community within their city.
Does Avondale have any influence in the maintenance and repair of streets & sidewalks?
All maintenance & repair would be handled by the city. All request and complaints would be taken up directly with the city manager for resolution.
Are there restrictions on yard sales?
There are no restrictions on yard sales. Anything heard about this may have had to do with a past ban on signage which would hurt advertising for a yard sale. Previously you were not allowed to put up real estate or political signs in Avondale. This has since changed and the signs allowed.
Are there more restrictive building permits thank DeKalb county?
Building codes and permit requirements are the same as DeKalb county with the exception of the historic preservation district.
A resident reported changing your mailbox would require a permit?
No permit would be required.
Also reported that permits would have to be issued by both Avondale & DeKalb County ?
All permits would be issued by Avondale only. All inspections would also be by Avondale. This may come from a local business that had severe permit issues while trying to build their restaurant last year. 100% of those permit issues were with DeKalb county as Avondale did not issue permits at that time. The business owner explained the problems they were having to Avondale. Avondale has since hired & taken over all permitting and inspections. Avondale has also taken over all fire inspections from the county as well.
It seems like there is a stall in business development within Avondale. What reasons are causing this?
One of the issues was permitting. DeKalb county could send up to 5 inspectors when doing a build out. This was causing massive delays in construction due to timing with each inspector. The inspectors were also giving conflicting information from one another. Avondale has stepped in and taken over the permitting processes to help construction move along.
The city has also hired positions to assist in business development which has already been able to obtain grants to work on the commercial areas of the city along college.
There were many behind the scene changes needed over the past 5 years to open up business development and the mayor believes they are at a point where you will start seeing real progress on this. He suggests you go over the 2014 master plan to learn more about this.
I spent as much time as possible going over every concern or question posted or emailed. However, I may have missed something. If I did and you would like me to check, just let me know. Also, every resident of Forrest Hills is welcome to go to city hall and speak with the city manager or mayor about issues pertinent to them. We only met with the mayor to get as much information as possible all at once to present to the neighborhood.