At Issue: What should Decatur build on Methodist Children’s Home land

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At Issue: What should Decatur build on Methodist Children’s Home land

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The city of Decatur must now decide what it will do with recently acquired land once owned by the United Methodist Children’s Home.

Next month Decatur begins assembling its master plan for redeveloping the old United Methodist Children’s Home property. The work’s expected to last six to eight months and includes four community input sessions.

This is a signature milestone, perhaps the signature milestone in the city’s long history (Decatur turns 194 on Dec. 10). For decades adding 77 acres of mostly green space to one of the state’s densest cities seemed inconceivable. Back in April when Decatur agreed to pay $40 million for the property, the typically imperturbable City Manager Peggy Merriss could barely contain herself.

“I feel like the dog who’s caught the bus,” she said. “Now we have to figure out what to do with that bus.”

We’d like to know how you’d answer that question.

The eastern section, or back 22 acres, including a lake, woods and community garden, gets mostly preserved as it stands today. The middle portion includes a gym, outdoor pool and a number of acres for various playing fields.

The most critical section relating to city development is the western portion that fronts South Columbia Drive. The city says there are no definitive plans for this section until the community master planning’s completed. If you participate in those sessions what is your vision?

In 2015 a group of Kennesaw State University students identified 22 contributing resources to a potential historic district. This includes 19 buildings, seven built between 1903 and 1919, six of those made of granite.

It also includes the Whitehead Building originally a schoolhouse built in 1939 with 15-foot ceilings and immense windows emitting streams of natural light.

Several independent observers have suggested potential uses for the property. Do you, for instance, build a boutique retail corridor along the original curved drive, restoring the buildings and creating a mini-downtown? Do you expand the Whitehead Building and turn it back into a school? Do you take a section of the tract and build a small mixed-use development to help pay for the non-commercial parts?

There are only three things the city has to keep: the chapel (which the city won’t own anyway), the administration building and founder Jesse Boring’s grave. The rest is an open canvas.

Send comments to communitynews@ajc.com.

LAST WEEK: HOW SHOULD THE EVER-INCREASING DEER POPULATION BE CONTROLLED?

Suburban growth is shrinking the natural habitat of Georgia’s white-tailed deer. At the same time, the deer population continues to grow in many areas unchecked making encounters with Georgia drivers a greater risk.

Information provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation shows 15,480 auto accidents in 2016 resulting from collision with an animal (most often with a deer); 969 resulted in injury, 16 in death.

Your chances of hitting a deer more than double in fall and winter as daylight driving hours decrease and the deer are mating. We asked readers for ideas for how to manage the ever-increasing risk to homeowners and drivers.

Perhaps the counties and smaller cities that are overrun by deer should do what Gainesville did for a similar problem on Riverside Drive. There was a very restricted bow hunt with permits awarded by raffle. — Dan and Patti Lewis

As an ex-Staten Islander, they are having this issue up there. They are capturing, neutering and releasing the does back into the wild. Very successful program. They use a sedative filled dart to bring the animal down. Obviously being on a finite sized piece of land, they had to do something radical. Shooting/cross-bow use in local cities is obviously a dangerous thing. – Karen Melde

Deer and people generally get along fine where nature manages wildlife and deer are not hunted, like on national parks. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and hunters have ballooned Georgia’s herd 6 times since the 1960s. Auto insurance is costly for us all because - little known to the public – the DNR is growing deer for hunters. Why? An antique federal law (16 U.S.C. 669-669i et seq ) requires DNR game managers’ paychecks to come from selling hunting licenses! — John Eberhart

Even bow hunting sounds crazy in a suburban area. – Barbara Brice

The best way to manage deer is by using the same methods that are used by the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources — managed archery hunting in the suburbs, such as Peachtree Corners. The city seems to believe coyotes will keep the deer in check. Coyotes also manage to kill many of our pets. Being eaten by coyotes or hit by a car is not a humane way to control the deer population. The city should consider having a paid draw for skilled honest sportsman to preform controlled archery hunts, especially in the green space. There are good ethical hunters willing to control the population if given the opportunity. – Skip Dahlstrom

I’ve been managing the population outside city [Berkeley Lake] bounds for the past few years. There are certain restrictions preventing legal hunters like myself from hunting inside the city. So we lure them out of the city… the saddest part of this issue is that in the city is perhaps where the population needs management the most but that’s not my concern. I think it should be up to the landowner and bow/crossbow only inside limits. – E. Wynn

There’s been more ‘land rape’ than you can shake a stick at (if you can find one) and people are concerned about the ‘over abundance’ of wildlife? I am literally SICK to my stomach every time I see what they’ve done by Sprout’s [in Peachtree Corners]. They DESTROYED nature to supposedly give us a space to enjoy nature? Where was all the wildlife that called that space ‘home’ supposed to pack up and move to? Every time a large section of land is cleared for some BS ‘improvement’ or ‘development’ it disrupts the ‘balance’ and if you can’t tell, makes me mad as hell! The reason a lot of us loved about living ‘away from the city’ no longer exists. — D. Riser

By far the best method to control their numbers is by legal, safe, and efficient bowhunters. The state Wildlife Resources Division allows this method to control deer numbers in addition to providing recreation for the hunters, and a source of organic, protein-rich venison. Their are numerous woodlots, wooded stream corridors, parks, golf courses, swamps, and undeveloped properties that hold and sustain the deer all over metro Atlanta. The biggest deterrent to responsible management is the misconception of hunters in the suburbs. Bowhunting is efficient and safe and needs to be implement more widely. The problem are landowners that won’t allow any hunting. The state provides indemnity from any civil liability for allowing hunting on the their land, yet this is still mentioned as a reason to deny permission. If more landowners, including corporations and municipal governments, would allow bowhunting, the population could be better controlled and deer-car collision could be reduced. — Eric Bruce

The only way to avoid urban sprawl is to move to the wilderness. I hate the urban sprawl as it makes traffic unbearable. I hate it and I hate it for the wildlife. However, even in rural South Georgia, where we moved to after we left Atlanta the deer are so populated that they kill drivers as they run out in front of cars. Not sure what the answer is. I saw at least 8 dead deer on the side of the road driving home for Thanksgiving. – H. Hendricks

It used to be that you could get a bow hunting permit for this area. I doubt you still can, but it’s certainly an idea worth exploring. Bow hunting (especially from a stand) is a lot safer than a gun, due to the range limitations and direction in which people shoot - down. Feeding deer, or any wild animal, is illegal in Berkeley Lake, but not the rest of the county. The only animals it is illegal to feed in Georgia are bears and alligators. – Rob McCabe

Bow hunting is the answer. The problem with the above listed ‘Staten Island’ idea is that although, in a perfect scenario, it is the most effective way…. it would cost a lot of money and resources that some of local cities, counties, etc. just can’t afford. I think hunting should be allowed on a lottery basis like at lakes and on corporate property. It only makes sense to do a lottery, it keeps thing small and simple and very traceable, and highly regulated creating a safe and cost effective method of population management I understand people’s concerns with it. But trust, there are very safe ways to hunt around other people/places/things. – Evan Wynn

Deer are allowed by our state’s laws to destroy property and occasionally kill humans. I think deer should be removed from all major urban areas and within 3-5 miles of interstates and other multi-lane roads. – Sue G.

Karen Huppertz for the AJC

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