April 2019 Minutes

Cliftondale Community Club, Inc.
April 8, 2019
The Cliftondale Community Club, Inc. met April 8, 2019 at the Cliftondale Community Center, Vice President Marcus Carter presiding. About 45 members and guests were present. Distinguished guests included City of South Fulton Councilmembers Helen Willis and Carmalitha Gumbs and Commissioner Marvin Arrington’s Community Engagement Representative Channing Parham.
Harold Reid, who represents the Club at the South Fulton Parkway Alliance, reported on the Alliance’s March meeting. The guest speaker was College Park Mayor Jack Longino, who described the anticipated impact of two major developments in his city, Airport City near the Georgia International Convention Center and the Hawks minor club arena near Highway 29. Mr. Reid emphasized that while the two developments were in College Park, the more successes we have anywhere on the southside, the more developers will be willing to invest on the southside.
Membership Committee Chair Tommie Stegall welcomed first-time visitors. He noted that we are entering our annual membership drive. The Club’s dues are $25 per family and $15 per family headed by a person 65 years or older. Our dues support expenses such as our email tree and website, donations to local schools, and community events such as our fall festival and Christmas gala.
Secretary Gayle Lesser, speaking as Treasury liaison, provided the Treasurer’s report.
District 2 Councilmember Gumbs made several announcements.
A lease has been signed for a District 2 mini-precinct located on Butner Road near Camp Creek Parkway. The first officers are anticipated to occupy the precinct by the end of April.
The County officially closed the Merk Road transfer station as of March 31, although it will remain open on a month-to- month basis. The City is evaluating leasing the facility for continued operation.
Councilmember Gumbs said the City has submitted 5 applications to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grants for traffic planning. Such grants provide money for sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.
She is sponsoring several events: a May 4 Community Clean-Up and School Fundraiser, partnering with Comcast, to clean up litter and illegal dumping in Cliftondale; a “smart city” town hall meeting on April 22, consistent with a recent Council resolution supporting smart city planning; and a second annual gala for seniors 55 and up on May 23.
District 3 Councilmember Willis also made a series of announcements.
She and Councilmember Gumbs are sponsoring a community clean-up for Districts 2 and 3 on April 27. She is pushing for more cameras to catch illegal dumping. She will also be sponsoring a child abuse symposium on April 13.
Councilmember Willis provided information on the Atlanta Job Corps Center, which is being built on Highway 29 and is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2020. The federal government owns the land where the Center will be built, so no rezoning was involved. A community information meeting was held last October, and more information will be released at a public meeting on April 18. The Center will provide vocational training programs. It will resemble a college campus with housing and a very secure and structured campus. The Center invited the City to submit requests for specialty training, and we are considering suggesting logistics and film programs. And, since the Center is not located in Atlanta city limits, the Councilwoman is working to have it renamed to reflect its regional focus.
The City is applying for a Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) Grant from the ARC for sidewalks and walkability improvements in the vicinity of the Center. (CDAP grants are annual local assistance grants for a wide range of projects such as zoning training, designing a community garden, auditing city ordinances, etc.)
Councilmember Willis sponsored legislation allowing the City to increase its hotel and motel occupancy tax to the maximum 8% allowed by law; the enabling legislation passed the state legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
She opposes as premature the effort to designate the Old National area as “downtown” to be considered by the Council at its April 9 meeting. The Council has budgeted $80,000 to develop an economic strategic plan that will allow residents to participate in selecting a location for city hall and perhaps choosing to have more than one “downtown”.
Councilmember Gumbs stressed that this is the City’s year for planning: zoning and economic development, parks, and comprehensive transportation in conjunction with MARTA. The most likely MARTA initiative will be continuing the South Fulton Parkway bus route from Derrick Road down to the Publix plaza, with a turnaround near the Waffle House on Highway 92.
Mr. Carter introduced guest speakers Inga Kennedy and Anna Johnson of Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., the consulting firm handling the rewrite of the County Zoning Resolution (which runs to hundreds of pages) for the City of South Fulton. Once the rewrite is complete, it will be voted on by the Council and then go on to the State for approval.
Ms. Kennedy explained the effort involved not only the zoning ordinance but also the land use plan, overlay districts, subdivision regulations, tree ordinance, etc. She described the public outreach process, project timetable, and public participation questionnaire.
She asked the audience for their top issues regarding the zoning ordinance. The following comments were made.
- A top priority should be maintaining the requirement for public participation in the reworking process and in the resulting zoning cycle. The City’s zoning cycle needs to be reviewed to assure this, since the cycle has dropped from 60 to 45 days and is now approaching 30 days, which hardly allows for getting information out and scheduling community meetings.
- The City’s process, unlike the County’s process, is so divided that an overview of a zoning application is not available at the beginning. The County would provide the application, requested modifications and variances, etc. in one original package; the City needs to offer the same convenience for residents.
- The City needs to improve its website, particularly for searches.
- The City needs to make the information in the CZIM (Community Zoning Information Meeting) – plats, etc. – readily available to residents, either in a more central location or on-line.
- The CZIM’s agenda needs to be broadcast in a timely manner.
- We are concerned about preserving our respective community overlays. Ms. Kennedy responded that the Wood team is looking into the commonalities of the existing overlays to apply across the whole City while leaving the individual overlays intact.
- We are concerned about preserving “the way South Fulton looks” [its wooded and rolling landscapes] even as we seek economic development. The ordinance needs to be sensitive to building our subdivisions as communities – allowances for schools, recreation, churches — not just houses.
- In the 1990s we fought to be recognized as Cliftondale, Sandtown, etc. Newer residents need to understand the history of how we fought to protect our natural environment and that we want to keep our overlay protections.
- We should use the City’s historical preservation board to insure keeping some of the City’s character during development.
– The Land Plan needs to guard against over-saturation of businesses (for example, establish distances between gas stations) and to include standards for business turnovers (as when shopping centers age).
- The ordinance will need to consider land use issues with contiguous cities, for example, their industrial/light industrial land uses bordering our residential areas.
- The consultants and the City need to be careful of making changes in the land use plan, regulations, and overlays. Will they respect input from the citizens, for example, our responses on the questionnaires?
- To be frank, in many cases the community veterans know more about the existing zoning ordinances and processes than the City’s staff and elected officials. In terms of Land Use planning, we need more categories for lot size and minimum house size, and we need to focus on the quality rather than the quantity of “rooftops.” We need a zoning Category RL (Residential Low Density) to insure quality as well as quantity.
- The City and consultants need to consider the infrastructure issues involved in zoning and development planning. The City’s water, sewer, public transportation, and school systems are controlled by other jurisdictions.
Ms. Kennedy asked what new trends need to be addressed in the ordinance, such as AirBNB. The following comments were offered.
– Councilmember Willis noted that a number of group homes are being proposed in her district and the ordinance should address them.
-The Wood firm should look into the original visioning process when overlays were developed for guidance regarding how those communities might respond to new trends. The visions still apply for the most part.
- The City should not offer incentives to businesses considering moving here. The City has advantages of location and available land.
- The City should require impact fees from developers to help address the resulting strain on infrastructure.
- Separate water meters should be required for individual condo, townhouse, and apartment units.
- Solar technology is a trend that should be addressed.
- Regarding the turnover of businesses, what is grandfathered in for replacement businesses in that location?
- Regarding grandfathering, the consultants should consider a rule wherein if a rezoned parcel is not developed in X years, the rezoning expires and the parcel reverts to its previous zoning (which is usually agricultural).
Ms. Kennedy closed the discussion by thanking the audience for their participation and urging them to complete the Zoning Ordinance Survey on paper or online. She stressed the Wood firm’s eagerness to meet with the community, for example, at HOA meetings or festivals.
Mr. Marcus thanked the speakers and audience for participating in a stimulating and informative evening. He called on those present to continue to inform themselves about these critical issues and participate in the planning processes going forward. He also announced an appreciation breakfast will be held for senior women in the Cliftondale community on May 4; information will be available from the Club’s email tree.
The meeting was adjourned.
Gayle Lesser, Secretary

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