UPDATE: Decatur interested in buying Boys & Girls Club in Oakhurst

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 22, 2015
The location of the Oakhurst Dog Park. Source: Google Maps

The location of the Oakhurst Dog Park. Source: Google Maps

This story has been updated. 

Decaturish has learned that the city of Decatur is making inquiries about buying the Boys & Girls Club in Oakhurst.

Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne said that the city has been been in talks with the Club’s owners about the possibility.

“We’ve always been interested in trying to acquire the site,” she said.

That purchase would include a beloved dog park that a developer wants to turn into family housing. Oakhurst residents have pushed back hard against the idea and have succeeded in delaying the project. The Planning Commission in December tabled a request from the developer to subdivide the property. Commissioners were expected to consider it again at the April 14 meeting, but the developer, Weaver Capital, asked for a deferral until the May 12 meeting.

While the city maintains the dog park, it is owned by the Boys & Girls Club, which leases it to the city for $1 a year.

Menne said if the city is successful in purchasing the Boys & Girls Club, the existing building would be used for “some type of recreational facility.”

Would it still serve as a Boys & Girls Club?

“I don’t know. At this point, that’s what we’re negotiating,” Menne said. “We are in conversations, is probably more accurate way of putting it.”

Lee Goldsmith, a Decatur resident who has headed up efforts to save the dog park, said the idea of the city buying the entire site is one he and other supporters would welcome. He said they’re already calling it “Oakhurst Central Park,” a public green space that would extend from Feld Avenue to 2nd Avenue.

“Everyone loves the idea of the city purchasing the land and making a big continuous park and saving our forests and dog park,” he said.

Ken Collins, Chief Financial Officer of the Boys & Girls Club, said the Club has been “open to exploring these conversations (with the city), while also honoring the current purchase agreement we have with Weaver Capital.”

“Weaver Capital is following the process to get approval for the subdivision of this land, but as of the last planning commission meeting, it is still not clear how this will manifest,” Collins said. “Most importantly, our overall objective is to continue providing quality services to the kids and teens of Oakhurst at our current facility. We serve hundreds of kids there every day – kids who need our support – and help them to succeed in school, live healthier and become leaders.

“Based on a current assessment of where the families we serve or should be serving reside, we’ve concluded that operating our programs at of our current facility still makes the most sense.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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  • Meghan

    I wonder what kind of school they will let CSD to build on the site? My guess is that the city needs a site for a school more than it needs a dog park.

    • An American Patriot

      You’re BARKING up the RIGHT tree, Meghan.

  • Kupe

    I wonder how Lee and the others that pushed to stop the developer feel about keeping a dog park, but potentially losing the Boys and Girls Club. Is that the better solution? Love to hear the thoughts.

    • Andrew

      There has been nothing reported that would indicate a predatory move on the part of the city. They are free to express interest and make an offer on the property, just as the Boys and Girls Club is free to accept or reject the offer based on whether or not it contributes to their goals. If B&GC have long-term plans for Oakhurst, they can reject it. If they’re expecting an eventual exit from the community, they can accept and then invest that money in areas with larger disadvantaged populations.

      If their long-term goals intersect with ours, I’d hate to miss the opportunity for a win-win by not exploring the possibilities and engaging in the discussion.

      • Kupe

        I am not saying the city is making a predatory move. As I don’t see the developers move predatory. It seems as a number of people did not feel OK with the the Boys and Girls Club being free to accept or reject the offer from the developer based on whether or not it contributes to their goals. So if it means the B&G leaves Oakhurst is that OK with the group. Maybe they don’t want to leave, but have no choice because selling part of their land did not sit well with a large group of people.

        • Andrew

          Perhaps. I can’t speak for those people, as I believe the Club has the right to legally use their land as they choose. Even if that runs contrary to a pretty much universally appreciated community use. But based on advocates I’ve spoken with, the majority have seemed more concerned with the Club’s funding for programs than with their physical location. That’s where I’m coming from as well. I don’t want an outcome that compromises their funding.

          It is clear, though, that whether the Club stays or leaves will not be rooted in financial necessity. It’s been reported prior that the B&GC didn’t even realize they had viable land to sell until the broker approached them. The offer simply introduced a new dynamic for consideration. Now there’s presumably two offers (or interest) for their consideration. That’s better for them, regardless of what their long-term plans are.

  • Phillip PhillyMoe Nelms

    Would hate to lose B&G Club. #0luv4dvlprs

  • william whitley

    I think land for a school is a great idea, if the Club sells.. Of course the dog park will be play space for the kids not the dogs.

  • Rob

    I still don’t understand why those who want the Dog Park so badly don’t raise the money needed to buy it? Why burden the city?

    Also the Boys & Girls club is a huge asset to underprivileged children which far exceeds the needs for a Dog Park.

    • Sine qua non

      Oh, Rob. I’ll bite. They won’t raise the money because it’s really haaarrrd to raise 100’s of thousands of dollars and besides, they expect the city to meet their every whim with the taxes they pay. They deserve it, right?

      Underprivileged kids? Surely you jest. They’ve essentially been driven out of town. Sadly, the vast majority of hipsters living at their old addresses appear to care not a whit about the few who remain. Those remaining unfortunates will be gone soon enough.

      Sure, why not turn the current bgc site into another school for Decatur’s privileged, nearly all-white students, with perhaps a strip of flood plain set aside where they can let their pups run? NOTHING could be a more perfect monument to gentrification gone amok.

      • Rob

        Not all children served by the Boys & Girls Club live in Decatur. There is still a BIG need for this facility and not a need for a Dog Park.

  • underscorex

    Middle school or high school, y’all?

  • ImminentDomain

    New school folks. Done deal. The need is too great to ignore. The enrollment numbers don’t lie.

    And don’t forget.. The city granted permission for the B&GC to buy PARK land. Which is why the taxpayers still pay to maintain it to this day.
    At *minimum*, the COD should have gotten first right of refusal… not hear about it from some sneeky residential developer.

    As far as I am concerned the B&GC can get lost after that stunt and their arrogant “informative” meeting they held to announce the sale of park lands. And telling the people who live, use, work as volunteers, and pay taxes to maintain the *park* that their mission “isn’t to provide dog parks” takes some stones. How about just not screwing over the people who have been paying and working to support you for YEARS?

    Dogs be damned, this is a quality of life issue… that land was and is park land that B&CG was allowed to buy and maintain on the cheap by the largess of COD taxpayers.

    And every disadvantaged kid in Decatur would benefit from a new school.
    Guess what the General Obligation bond money is going for folks…

    But the dog park is going bye-bye… sorry.

  • Just For Thought

    I guess I am in the minority on this topic because I believe
    that as long as the subdivision meets current zoning and lot dimensions with no
    variances, the property owner has every right to sell it and divide it accordingly. This view that the public has the right to influence private property (Park or not, dogs or not is crazy) If the city can purchase this for market rate and then turn it into a possible school location then great. That should be disclosed then. If not then I feel that is a bad allocation of tax dollars these days (please focus on Schools) Private property is private property, like it or not. B&GC own it and have the right to sell it to the highest
    bidder. If you do not like it get your own check book out! not the city’s

    • OakhurstRez

      I completely agree. Its private property and they can develop it if they fall within the guideline of the development code. The public is free to make their opinion known, which is what is great about America, but a private landholders rights can not be diminished to mob mentality.

      And now that we are floating the idea of increased taxes and school bonds for the school problem, the city of Decatur shouldn’t be entertaining this possible deal, or anything other unless there intentions are to build a new school. Period.

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