Council Considers Zoning Code Changes; Naming Northwoods Creeks

This week, at its Feb 20, 2019 meeting, the Doraville city council had a long and productive discussion that covered several topics

The most critical of these was a re-write of our zoning ordinances. When I was on the Planning Commission, I was shocked to learn how poorly written our zoning ordinances are. They are long, rambling paragraphs that were originally written in the 60s and have just been added to over the years. Many business-types that have sprung up since the 60s are not listed in the code, and thus require Conditional Use Permits to open (or are not allowed at all). It’s also hard for people who want to open a business to easily see what’s allowed or not allowed in a particular zone.

Over the past year, the Community Development Director, along with the Planning Commission, has been working on reformatting the code into a matrix format. They consolidated many duplicative uses into single lines, and suggested changes that could hinder growth. We had a good discussion about this code (focusing just on C1 and C2 for now), and it will come back to council again for further consideration in the March 18th meeting.

One thing that had been added to the code by the Community Development Director, which I did not support, was allowing hookah and cigar lounges to come to Doraville. Doctor Sarah Elizabeth Ford, the Director of the DeKalb Board of Health, came to council in November and spoke out against this addition to the code, as did a number of community activists. I voted against this addition, along with the majority of council, because while I support the right of adults to engage in smoking if they want to do it – I have concerns that hookah lounges could encourage tobacco use among young people and lead to devastating future health issues in our community.

In addition to zoning, we discussed changes to the building permitting process. The city is required to follow International Building Code by the state, but needs to pass legislation authorizing its building inspectors to enforce the codes. The new legislation we’re considering would use language that automatically updates our code whenever the state updates its code – it should be a much more efficient way of doing this.

There have been a few smart alec comments about a section of the code that says building permits are not required for a long list of items, including oil derricks. That is because oil derricks are covered by zoning permits – for instance they are not allowed in residential districts at all. We did ask for the language about this to be clarified, so it is clear that even if a building permit is not required, other permits may be required.

Northwoods Creeks that the council is asking the Federal Government to name at the request of NANA

Finally – over the past year, the Northwoods Area Neighborhood Association (NANA) has worked on a project to name some formerly unnamed creeks in the Northwoods neighborhood. Many people in the community were involved, and they ultimately settled on the names “Stewart Creek” and “Northwoods Creek”. Stewart Creek was named after Thomas Stewart who allowed a granite quarry to be dug near Chestnut Drive and Buena Vista Drive. He dammed a creek that ran through the quarry, creating a swimming hole named “Stewart’s Lake.” Naming the creek that formed this lake “Stewart” honors this memory. The Northwoods Creek runs through the middle of the historic Northwoods neighborhood, which is why the group decided to name it “Northwoods.” This was a great community building effort, and I’m proud that the council voted to allow the city manager to send a request to the Federal government asking them to accept these names.

You can download the meeting packet with all documents here and view the video here.