Avondale mayoral candidates Q&A – Paul Brown
Decaturish.com has sent all five candidates running in the Avondale Estates March 17 mayoral election a list of questions about the city, the race and what they would do if elected. Candidates had until Sunday to return the questions. The Q&A’s will run every day this week in the order that they were received.
1) What do you think is Avondale Estates’ greatest strength as a city?
Avondale Estates is a small city that has nearly 100 years of experience on how to make it work. There is pride in the city for preservation of its heritage, a conservative fiscal approach, and a feeling of community. This community will band together and commit to what they believe by having fundraisers, making improvements to education, amenities, and communicating with each other for needed support.
2) What do you think is its biggest weakness?
Avondale Estates has a reputation, deservedly or not, for being exclusionary. Neighboring businesses fight annexation; schools that are located on our main streets are not supported by parents and individuals; we have diverse neighborhoods but not all residents and neighborhoods have a voice in city government policies.
3) How do you view the relationship between the mayor and city manager in the city of Avondale Estates?
The mayor is an elected official who represents all the residents of the city, advocates the policies voted on by the residents, addresses those policies publicly to the city and for the city, and be the head of the city for the purpose and service of process.
The City Manager is hired by the mayor and board of commissioners to fulfill the duties of executive and administrative services for the city. The next Mayor must set the standard for transparency and community involvement by making the process of listening to our citizens the most vital part of governing.
4) Are you satisfied with the performance of the current city manager?
The performance of the city manager has kept our city budget free from debt. The staff is very helpful, knowledgeable, and accessible. The next mayor will need to communicate with many different government agencies, such as MARTA, Dekalb County, City of Decatur, and the Georgia State Legislature. Open communication has never been our strength although the city manager has worked on making information more available to the residents. There is still an abutment to transparency that only the mayor can perform and make transparency possible to residents.
5) What is your opinion of the Museum School and its relationship with the city and its residents?
I believe the Museum School is a model for learning. I support the school 100% and will support fundraising as well. The relationship is clear. The community needs schools. I believe in the need for education and to strengthen and safeguard the community schools. We need to build community participation. Avondale Elementary School has 525 students. Fifty percent (50%) of the students are from Avondale Estates. We need to serve all our residents and nurture what we have in this community. With active parents and community involvement, Avondale Elementary is primed to be another model for education. The Museum School is a model for this to happen. As well, the Oakhurst Elementary in Decatur is an example of how a neighborhood banded together and made a local public elementary school a positive and desired educational experience.
We need to fully invest in all our children, provide each student a quality education, and meet the needs of young families in Avondale Estates to continue to attract new families into our city. We need this to happen as a community. When you think there will be 2,000 new apartment units built within two miles of Avondale Elementary School it seems that school will need to be expanded or Dekalb County will build new elsewhere.
6) Do you support the annexation plan that was recently adopted by the board of mayor and commissioners?
This city has been successful for many years. If annexation is good for the city, we all should possess that knowledge. There should have been a public feasibility study. If we will not benefit substantially, why would we wish to pursue it? The city has a very positive balance sheet as it exists. However, there are very good reasons to understand annexation as the world is coming near to our borders. This critical information will be discussed publicly in the future. City Hall should hold town hall meetings to discuss and involve our residents, and the businesses and homeowners in the areas to be annexed. With transparency in information, I will respect the decision by those who vote. Unfortunately, Avondale Estates residents will not be part of that vote, only the residents and businesses of the annexed areas. I do not believe our community was aware of the magnitude of the BOMC unanimous decision to vote for annexation on January 5, 2015. If the General Assembly adopts the legislation, referendum will be held on Nov. 3, 2015. If the referendum passes in the affirmative, then annexation becomes effective on Dec. 15, 2015.
7) What is your position on the Euramex mixed use project that is being considered in Avondale Estates?
There are governances already in place that allow for design control for ALL future developments documented in the City of Avondale Estates Comprehensive Plan. The Community Agenda for all city government policies are to be listed. This agenda is based on input derived from the Community Participation Program. This agenda also relies on the Community Assessment as a base-line resource and is a requirement of Georgia Planning Act and the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
A five-year update is required by 2016 to determine the activities and strategies the city has chosen to undertake for the next five (5) years. This update is called the Short Term Work Program (STWP). This will also include a Report of Accomplishments outlining the progress the city has made in achieving their goals. If you read the last one filed in 2011, there is not much significantly stated in laymen’s terms.
We should look again at the ‘Visioning’ sessions held by the city in particular, the Fenner Dunlop and future development interpretations. Recently, the city held Master Plan Development sessions with neighborhood involvement. This plan, though thoughtfully conceived, shows a public space, community center, museum, and entertainment zone. It unfortunately does not include the basic needs for parking and a structure in place to fund these ideas. The Fenner Dunlop ‘Visioning’ renders the project as a group of 3 story structures spreading along the site. The city has adopted spot zoning for the ‘Mill Area’ allowing for an increase of 40 units per acre when the current zoning code for the city is 8 units per acre. This increase in density will have a huge impact on our community because the Fenner Dunlop property purchased by Euromex is 13 acres. Simple math equates 13×40=520 units. I have worked with enough multifamily developers to understand the target of development is to maximize potential.
The one device our city has for control during this development proposal period is the approval of the Conditional Use Permit that must be obtained by the developers before work proceeds. This is the one opportunity we have as a community to request the developers to abide by the Community Plan, to control access to the site, to control construction vehicles from damaging our streets, to provide a path for our ‘Tudor Village’ allowing pedestrian and bicycle movement, and to leave roads and property in the condition they are now. The Development Agreement between the City of Avondale Estates and Euromex will expedite the approval process required for the development of this property. At the Board of Mayor and Commissioners (BOMC) meeting where three (3) commissioners voted for annexation, it was announced that they are near agreement with Euromex regarding the Development Agreement. Yet, no one in the community has seen any proposed development information regarding this project.
8) Name three specific policy initiatives you would like to implement if you are elected as mayor:
– Preserving the values, quality of life and the sense of place that we all call home
– Conservative fiscal policy in regards to growth and create newfound trust, faith and confidence in community through a transparent city government
– Fostering greater community involvement in all the schools that Avondale Estates students attend.
9) Do you have any current or former business interests with the city? (i.e. have you performed paid work on the city’s behalf now or in the past, or have you or your company bid on city work)?
No, and as the next Mayor, I will not seek any paid work with the city.
10) Do you own any commercial property in the city limits?
11) What is your opinion of the city’s current historic preservation standards?
Again, the City of Avondale Estates Comprehensive Plan and its Supplements have described the intent of the historic preservation standards. As a community, we need a mayor who will protect and preserve our historic city environment. Moving forward, the city needs an experienced knowledgeable candidate committed to the good of the whole community
12) Commercial property owners in the city’s annexation plan have said they do not feel the city is friendly to business. Do you feel this is a fair criticism and, if so, what would you do to change it?
Community engagement is working together, side by side. Volunteering, becoming active, sponsoring events, and supporting events will bring our whole community together. We all live and/or work here in Avondale Estates. We must support the people who have invested dreams and money in building their businesses here and make it possible for them to remain here. As a small business owner who has worked with local government on licensing and permitting issues for 30 years, I understand the needs of small business and will work to make the process of doing business in Avondale Estates better for everyone involved
13) Please describe how your professional background would be an asset to you in this position.
As a business owner, I have employed and managed as many as 34 people in a national firm based in Atlanta, GA. In 2006, Catalyst Magazine selected my company as one of the top 5 finalists (4th) for Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Atlanta.
I have managed complex, multi-use projects for clients in Atlanta area for 19 years, worked with local governments on the approvals and licensing needed for projects ranging in size from small businesses to large commercial developments, and I know how local governments can help or hurt businesses seeking to bring jobs and amenities to their area.
I started my namesake architecture firm in 1987 in New Hampshire after relocating from Los Angeles where I led the land planning department at Vito Cetta and Associates.
One of my projects, The Pencil Factory Flats and Shops 349 Decatur St. SE, Atlanta, GA
Completed in 2009 was one of three finalists for an Atlanta Downtown Design Excellence Award and an Atlanta Regional Commission & Livable Communities Coalition 2010 Development of Excellence Award.
Other notable multifamily and mixed use projects in Atlanta area:
– 870 Inman Condominiums, 740 North Highland Avenue, Atlanta, GA
– Brookwood Place Condominiums, 1735 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA
– Park Towers Place Condominiums, 799 Hammond Drive, Atlanta, GA
1983 Graduated from California State Polytechnic University, B Arch degree
1983, Assistant Instructor with Doreen Nelson at the ABC Unified School District elementary school system in Cerritos, CA for the City Building Program.
1983-1985, Scholar-in-residence at the R. M. Schindler House, West Los Angeles, CA
1984-1985, Editorial Assistant at Arts + Architecture Magazine, Barbara Goldstein, editor.
1988-1989 Instructor; Introduction to Architecture, School of Arts, University of New
Hampshire, three (3) semesters
14) What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?
I have worked with government agencies for nearly 30 years as owner/architect representing property owners and builders throughout Georgia, Florida, New England and California. I have also worked with government agencies as clients. I have extensive experience in the City of Atlanta, Dekalb County and the Atlanta Regional Commission on land use, zoning, permitting, and compliance.
Currently, I am working with the developer to finalize a Development Agreement with the City of Canton, MA on the Plymouth Rubber Development, 32 acres of downtown property that will restore two historic structures and house the City of Canton offices, and provide the new Canton Community Center while remediating the brownfields that abut the Canton River and Factory Pond. The project is located a block from the main street of Canton, MA, a city with a population of 16,000 residents.
The City of Canton understands that development of this property will define the city itself, not unlike our current “Tudor Village” property. I have been involved with this project as architect and land planner since 2011. We must invest our time, monies, and priorities to the enrichment of community that make life worth living.
15) If elected, do you promise to behave in an ethical and transparent manner?
The special election will be March 17, and early voting starts Feb. 23. The city will be hosting a forum on Thursday, Feb. 19, at City Hall, located at 21 North Avondale Plaza. The forum will start at 6:30 pm and will end at 8:30 pm.
Decaturish will also accept letters to the editor in support of – or in opposition to – the candidates in this race. The cut-off date for candidate letters will be Feb. 23. All letters must be signed and are typically 400 to 800 words in length. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and content. To send your letter to the editor, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.