Legislature lifts alcohol restrictions that would limit Callaway development

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 3, 2015
Closeup of the Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Connor Carey. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Closeup of the Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Connor Carey. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This story has been updated. 

The state Legislature on Thursday passed general legislation that gave a boost Decatur’s plans to redevelop the Callaway property.

While the General Assembly did not pass the city’s annexation plan or its plans to expand the homestead tax exemption, it did vote to lift certain alcohol restrictions. Currently, state law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption within 200 yards of a school. The Callaway building, located at 120 West Trinity Place, is right behind Decatur High School.

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.

That could’ve limited the city’s ability to attract a grocery store to this location. House Bill 85, Approved on April 2, lifts that restriction when a local municipality deems it appropriate. The bill now awaits Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.

Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss said, “We are pleased that the legislation passed.”

Two of Decatur’s legislators, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, and state Sen. Elena Parent, SD-42, voted against the final version of bill.

Rep. Oliver said she was traveling today and could not immediately respond to our question about why she voted against it.

Sen. Parent said she voted against the bill because it was joined with another bill that “dealt with selling alcohol near the old Central State Hospital.”

She also voted against it because, “I just opposed the part about selling alcohol near schools. But you don’t get to vote in sections!”

About Dan Whisenhunt

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

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  • RAJ

    Probably best for her and EP to get out of town after THIS legislative session!

  • An American Patriot

    Wouldn’t have needed the vote if the property was used for it’s best purpose……A NEW MIDDLE SCHOOL. The commission sees nothing but $$$$Dollar$$$$$ Signs.

    • Andrew

      Not that we don’t need to explore space solutions for our schools but exactly how does CSD paying top dollar for downtown real estate, then keeping the property (and its high performance potential) off the tax rolls, equate to sound fiscal policy? Overpay for land, then kill off a sizable revenue stream that helps pay the school bill? Seems to me that if the commissioners screwed residential property owners with that level of double boondoggle, we’d all be calling for their heads.

      • An American Patriot

        Andrew, I challenge you to name me one, just one mind you, other piece of property in the whole, entire City of Decatur that is big enough to build another school…….I will anxiously await your reply. Additionally, if a new Middle School is built on the Callaway Property, the whole, whole mind you, city block bounded by N. McDonough, E. Howard, Commerce and Trinity would be for CSD purposes. No apts., townhouses, condos, retail would be present. In my view, that’s a plus because if any are built, there’s going to be a traffic nightmare in that area from day one, particularly when you consider the new development on Trinity between Church and E. Howard. If we wouldn’t SPEND that additional revenue………now that would be something I could agree with; however, we both know that ain’t gonna happen. It’s called TAX AND SPEND.

        • Andrew

          The point is that, according to the school system, we need additional revenue to meet enrollments and operate the system. If we can’t generate it through revenue-heavy sources like dense downtown development then we’ll need to raise it via tax increases on current residential property holders. Unless the school system is being deceptive about their needs, of course, but that’s a totally different story. You can say no downtown development if that’s your preference, but that doesn’t identify where the money will come from instead.

          As for site locations, the present middle school wasn’t built on raw land. It was built on a former residential city block that was redeveloped. So long as you have willing sellers acting together, you don’t need a single undeveloped parcel to build on.

  • Decatur parent

    I also am perplexed that the property isn’t being considered more seriously to alleviate the school district’s need for space. The mayor did recognize that CSD’s space issues are in a “crisis.”

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