Decatur DDA eyes $695k greenspace purchase

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt August 15, 2014


The city of Decatur’s Development Authority is asking the city commission to sign off on paying $695,000 to buy property to sell to a nonprofit for additional green space.

An intergovernmental agreement for the property purchase is on the city commission’s meeting agenda for Monday, Aug. 18. Under the terms of the deal, the DDA would purchase property at called the Merritt property, located at 915 Clairemont Avenue. The DDA has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Woodlands Garden, a nonprofit that oversees greenspace adjacent to the Merritt property.

“The City’s intergovernmental agreement with the DDA pledges the City’s full faith and credit if The Woodlands does not make the payments,” a memo from Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon says.

Under the MOU, Woodlands Garden would make the monthly interest-only payments to Private Bank of Decatur, which is financing the deal. Woodlands Garden would be required to purchase the property at the end of 18 months.

“If it fails to do so, the DDA can sell the property to any purchaser,” the meeting agenda says.

City Commissioner Fred Boykin said that Woodlands Garden has been trying to acquire the property for some time.

“It’s just a nice piece of greenspace,” Boykin said.

Woodlands started as the home of the Morse family in 1946, according to the park’s website. The family gave their 7.1 acres to the Decatur Preservation Alliance as a dedicated greenspace for the city.

Also on the city commission agenda: approval of a $25,000 contract with Sizemore Group for annexation Master Plan consulting services.

According to the agenda item, “The City of Decatur in cooperation with the City Schools of Decatur will undergo a master planning process this fall with the intention of providing a plan for consideration in November. We have put together a steering committee and will be scheduling public input sessions later this fall. City and school staff will perform technical analysis of revenues and expenditures in addition to analyzing future facility needs.”

The City Commission meeting begins at 7:30 pm and will be held at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public. There is also a work session at 6:00 pm.

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  • Chris Billingsley

    $700,000! That’s a lot of K for a space that would no longer be on the tax roll. And the Woodland Park is still occupied by private owners (or at least it was the last time someone questioned why a city park always seemed to be closed) and only opened to the public once a month. Is anyone paying property taxes on the Woodlands and if so, is the property taxed at fair market value?
    This is not a gift horse. Someone should check this out.

    • Rival

      Woodland Gardens is open to the public every day of the week during daylight hours. It is not a city park. Decatur Preservation Alliance must be tax-exempt, because there is no property tax due on their current property (though they are charged for sanitation and storm water per the online statement).

      Maybe Woodland Gardens has a general idea of what it wants to do but needed more time to flesh it out. So the DDA helps out with acquisition to prevent the property from being sold and developed incongruous with their plans. Eighteen months is a long ways off in development world, but I wouldn’t worry about unloading the property if it doesn’t work out for Woodlands.

  • Jack Kittle

    Woodlands is open daily during daylight hours. The private residence has been removed. See the Woodlands website for further details.

  • TRW

    I’m so excited to see that the corner will not be developed! As a family of four, we have enjoyed many walks in Woodlands Garden and even a kids birthday party. The house was removed years ago.

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