Redevelopment of Callaway Building would be subject to alcohol restrictions
Decatur’s plans for a mixed-use development at the Callaway Building have an important caveat.
Currently, state law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption within 200 yards of a school. The building, located at 120 West Trinity Place, is right behind Decatur High School.
Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne told the Decatur City Commission at its Tuesday meeting that the restriction could limit what would be allowed in the redeveloped Callaway Building. Specifically, she said it would limit the ability to put a grocery store on the property.
“I think any kind of urban area like the city of Decatur that has a school is going to come up against this type of restriction,” Menne said. “While we certainly don’t want to create a free for all. We also … are trying to get better access to food and downtown for all of our residents.”
During the meeting, City Commissioners changed the zoning of the Callaway Building from institutional to commercial. The city has an agreement with Cousins Properties to redevelop the 5.25 acre site. The city purchased the property from DeKalb County using $5.12 million borrowed by issuing bonds. DeKalb County currently occupies the building but the county’s lease ends in October of this year.
The alcohol restriction on businesses near schools adds another twist to questions about whether the property would be better suited to ease overcrowding in Decatur schools. Current City Schools of Decatur enrollment is more than 4,300 students. Enrollment projections show the city adding somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 students by 2020, depending on the growth scenario.
City Manager Peggy Merriss has said the project will provide much-needed commercial tax revenue for the city.
There is a chance that the restriction on the sale of alcoholic beverages could be lifted, however.
Mayor Pro Tem Kecia Cunningham pointed out that there’s currently a bill under consideration that would give local cities a say on whether to waive these rules. Senate Bill 91 provides, “for local control of distance requirements for grocery stores as to the retail sale of wine and malt beverages for consumption off the premises only such that grocery stores shall be allowed to open in locations near school buildings and school grounds if so permitted by the local governing authority.”
Menne said city staff has followed up with the state legislative delegation about the bill.
Commissioner Patti Garrett said the bill has been described as an economic development tool.
Garrett said, “I don’t know where the traction is or anything, but I just remember seeing it last week and going, ‘woohoo!”
Read more: Senate Bill 91.