Notes from Doraville’s 2018 Council Retreat

On August 4th, Doraville’s council held its first retreat in several years. This was a great session where we identified some of our core values and top goals. Our city manager had expressed that it was important for her to get some direction about what issues are most important to us – I think we were able to accomplish that in this meeting

We spent a full day in a room together, hashing out a vision and finding common ground. My notes from the session are what follow.

Our core values as a council were the first thing we discussed. These are the the principles that we will operate by as a body, and keep in mind when working on legislation. They are:

  • Transparency
  • Honesty & Trust
  • Respect
  • Ethics
  • Equality (All people are Equal)
  • Courage
  • Considering Future Generations
  • Responsiveness
  • Communication
  • We are a Welcoming City

Our goals for the day included:

  • Defining a path forward for how we operate
  • Defining priorities
  • Identifying our common goals as a group
  • Having a path to implementation
  • Having measurable goals
  • Being on the same page
  • Having discussions ahead of action
  • Being able to communicate and bring up new ideas
  • Allowing staff to know the council’s collective thinking
  • Defining our “lanes” in terms of what council and admin do

The council members did an exercise where we did multi-voting to determine which goals are most important to us as a group. These goals will help the city staff determine how to allocate resources. Here is the ranked list (including some specific goals for each one):

Economic Development

  • Market the city to businesses
  • Make zoning codes more efficient
  • Speed up time it takes for us to approve businesses
  • Enable easier permitting
  • Publicize our openness, diversity and inclusiveness
  • Utilize commissions more effectively
  • Understand what other cities do with developers
  • City should invest in itself (including development projects)

Transportation / Transit

  • Ensure a comprehensive multi-modal plan
  • Bike trails to connect to MARTA
  • Connectivity between all segments of our city
  • Work with the state, GDOT and other governments where it makes sense
  • Connectivity to ourselves, our neighbors and the region. Be more focused on projects that have regional drivers when appropriate
  • Improve pedestrian access
  • Improve sidewalks – especially around bus stops
  • Look at improving bike paths and making wider sidewalks

Infrastructure

  • Do something with private sector to fix up and decorate unsightly buildings
  • Need a city wide stormwater plan
  • Include a sidewalk plan
  • Replace horizontal buildings at the city complex to build a town center (near MARTA). Should become a cultural center and create foot traffic
  • Plan to tie septic properties into the sewer system – educate homeowners about options
  • Require tie-ins to avoid having to re-patch roads
  • Demolish derelict buildings
  • Evaluate city’s assets and decide what to keep, fix or get rid of

Well Managed Government

  • Responsiveness to questions from residents, businesses and developers
  • Show respect to staff; offer incentives and recognition
  • Fill vacant positions and retain the talented individuals we have
  • Research best pay practice
  • Report to the public on a monthly basis
  • Put any typical open records request items on a website

Neighborhood Preservation

  • Maintenance and installation of sidewalks
  • Have a plan for infill development
  • Historic preservation – develop a plan
  • Develop a policy on burnt down or blighted properties; have a processs to address
  • Develop a list of problem properties
  • Define the enforcement priorities of code enforcement
  • Identify codes that are poorly written or that are unenforceable

Housing

  • Research developable tracts within the city
  • Consider “Small Houses”
  • Consider allowing inlaw suites
  • Consider allowing smaller square footage minimums
  • Incentivize developers to build workforce housing
  • We need an overall housing policy that covers all types of housing
  • We must protect the integrity of our existing neighborhoods
  • Produce flyers to help people make their homes ADA compliant

When it comes to capital projects, there are many that have been identified, and we need a way to prioritize them. We agreed to use the following criteria when deciding which ones to focus on first:

  • Align with strategic focus areas (including adopted planning documents, comprehensive plans and LCIs)
  • Consider the health and safety impact
  • Look at asset preservation vs asset expansion – consider preserving first
  • Look at return on investment
  • Complete a project before starting on a new one
  • Look for public private partnerships and prioritize those to leverage funding
  • Look for projects that will have the highest private good, but don’t let any neighborhoods be left out
  • Consider the ongoing operational impact of projects (we need staff feedback on this)
  • Invest in quality – if we are going to do something, do it well or else shut it down
  • Coordinate with developers

The retreat was extremely positive, and I feel like we have a team that has laid the groundwork to accomplish great things.

A shot of the mayor, council, and city manager at the 2018 retreat