Decatur pays $600K to buy land that’s sown division between residents, developers

This is a property off Commerce Drive in Decatur that the city recently purchased.

Credit: Google Maps

Combined ShapeCaption
This is a property off Commerce Drive in Decatur that the city recently purchased.

Credit: Google Maps

Residents praise the city for purchasing the 0.6-acre property just east of Decatur Square

Several Decatur residents were pleased the city staved off developers and bought a problem property near Decatur Square.

City leaders voted Tuesday to pursue paying $600,000 to buy two parcels off Commerce Drive near East Ponce de Leon Avenue, which is just east of Decatur Square. The 0.6-acre land is mostly undeveloped woods and brush, but it does include a standalone home.

Due to the property’s proximity to the city’s bustling downtown, it’s been a target of multiple developers over the past few years to the ire of residents. Susie Kezh, who spoke at Tuesday’s commission meeting alongside five of her neighbors, argued city staff will have a better chance of redeveloping the property than outside companies.

“I would rather deal with you than a developer. And that is just the truth,” Kezh said. “I think being able to come to you with the transparency that entails is a far better situation than the developers we have already dealt with.”

Last year, a nine-unit townhome project was proposed for the site, leading to pushback from neighbors. The project never made it out of the city’s planning commission and was indefinitely tabled. On Tuesday, residents made clear that they do not want “large” developments coming to that property, abutting their single-family homes.

While city leaders have not released any specific plans for the land once it is under city control, City Manager Andrea Arnold said it presents opportunities for greenspace preservation as well as affordable housing — a constant goal by city leadership.

Earlier Tuesday, the commission discussed ways to address “missing middle housing,” which are various housing types between single-family homes and apartment buildings. Duplexes and other middle housing types are not currently allowed in Decatur’s code, but Arnold said this property could be a test site for reintroducing those housing types.

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Commissioner George Dusenbury added that the city’s purchasing offer is $50,000 less than the asking price by the property’s owner, which he said is rare in Decatur. He said now is the right time for the city to swoop in and scoop up the land.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty around this property for a while,” Commissioner George Dusenbury said. “We’ve seen some proposals out here in terms of development. We were patient, and we saw a good opportunity to step in and acquire the parcel to have control of what happens with it.”

Mayor Patti Garrett said city leaders will seek public input once the sale closes and city staff have time to develop preliminary plans for the land. The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of July.