Doraville Joins Welcoming America’s One Region Initiative

At its August 20th meeting, Doraville’s city council passed a resolution supporting Welcoming America’s  “One Region Initiative.” This is a group of local government entities around metro Atlanta who have agreed to pursue policies that  support immigrants and  refugees who live in our communities. This is the first regional welcoming plan in the USA, and I’m proud that Doraville is a founding member.

By joining this initiative, Doraville has committed to work towards inclusion – by doing things like providing municipal information in multiple languages, providing opportunities for civic engagement, and doing general civic outreach to immigrant and under-represented communities.

There were a couple of votes against joining this initiative – they boiled down to two arguments from opposite ends of the spectrum:

  1. “Doraville is already a very welcoming place, so there is no need to join this initiative”

  2. “Doraville has not done enough work to support immigrant communities, and joining this initiative would not change that. “

From my perspective, these arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny. If Doraville is a welcoming place, then we should be actively pursuing opportunities like the One Region Initiative. If we aren’t doing enough today, then we should welcome the One Region Initiative, because it will give us a structure and support for doing more to reach out to immigrant and refugee communities.

I’m proud to support this effort, and that our city has voted to be a part of it. I appreciate the work that Council Member Koontz did to represent the city while the initiative was being planned, and for making the resolution we recently voted on to join the initiative. Our participation in this from the beginning means that our city is helping shape the regional conversation, rather than just playing catch up.

Microbreweries, Microdistilleries and Brewpubs

Doraville is considering changes to its zoning for alcohol manufacturers. There have recently been several businesses that were interested in opening microbreweries or microdistilleries in many different parts of the city – but our current zoning does not allow them to operate.

The city’s staff has brought us a re-work of our zoning code that defines “microbreweries,” microdistilleries,” “microwineries,” and brewpubs. The proposal suggests that they be allowed to set up shop in areas that are zoned industrial.

Most of the concern I have heard comes from residents of neighborhoods that are adjacent to industrial zones. To address this, Councilmember Koontz has proposed a buffer of at least 500 feet between any micro-alcohol producer and a residential neighborhood. We will be deciding this at the August 20th meeting.

At the same meeting, we will be deciding on whether or not to allow an open container district in Assembly, along with a question about allowing a large microbrewery. I support allowing the open container district, but need more details on what they are proposing for the microbrewery before making a decision on that.

I want Doraville to be a place that welcomes business and that allows start-ups to thrive. I also want it to be a place where residents can walk to local establishments and enjoy a drink together. I hope we will have taken a step in that direction when we finish voting on the proposed legislation.

You can read more about the proposed legislation in the packet for the August 20th meeting agenda.

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

Ideas for: Buford Highway

On November 28th, I attended the Buford Highway “Ideas Fair.” This was an event sponsored by Generator Labs  and We Love BuHi. The two organizations’ founders (Ryan Gravel and Marian Liou) had taught a class at Georgia Tech aimed at getting students to envision ways to help Buford Highway maintain what makes it special, while also focusing on making it a more human-centered place.

My favorite idea was called “Restoring the Right of Way.” It was from a former Northwoods resident who suggested connecting the informal paths that connect Pinetree Plaza to Northwoods in a more formal way (removing fences, adding stairs, etc). It was a good, simple idea that would help make it easier for to cut from the neighborhood to Buford Highway without so much walking – just by using already existing right-of-way space.

There were other good ideas about making bus stops more pleasant, creating apps that would tell the stories of restaurants along the strip, and enabling small business through food carts. Some of the ideas may not have been so practical, or may require a lot of work to make happen, but the best thing about the whole event was that a group of enthusiastic young people were focusing their attention along this road that is so important to Doraville.

Chestnut Traffic Calming

I know that many residents in Northwoods and Gordon Heights are concerned about traffic on Chestnut Drive. The city does have a plan for addressing this – one that would look very similar to the calming done on Oakcliff Road earlier this year.  The plan is available online at the city website – you can also see it below.

Chestnut 160324 11x17

If you’re curious about what this plan would look like in action, take a drive down Oakcliff Road.

Maybe this is the answer to slowing things down on Chestnut. Whatever the city does, though, we need to make sure we have plenty of input from residents. Just because this plan exists, we shouldn’t think that it’s the only

There are other ways to calm traffic that should be considered.

  • More stop signs – if you look at the plan above, there are several long stretches where cars don’t need to stop at all – why not add more stops at the 3-way intersections?
  • Lower the speed limit – does Chestnut really need to be a 35-mph street? Why not lower it to 25, so that traffic goes at the same speed as the other streets in the neighborhood? (actually – it looks like the city council already voted in favor of this, and it may have been vetoed by the state. I am researching)
  • Install roundabouts instead of stop signs – roundabouts are proven to reduce accidents and make drivers slow down, while not actually stopping traffic

I’m open to all options – including proceeding with the city’s current plan or going with some completely new idea. I want to make sure I hear from the citizens who live Northwoods and Gordon Heights, though, to understand what they would like to see. What ideas do you have for slowing down traffic in our residential neighborhoods? E-mail me those ideas at joseph.geierman@doravillega.us.