Decatur’s plan for Dearborn Park expansion hits a snag

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt December 22, 2015

This story has been updated. 

Decatur’s City Commission on Dec. 21 voted to approve buying nearly 4 acres to expand county-owned Dearborn Park, but another party claims to be under contract to buy the property.

City Manager Peggy Merriss said she’d received a note about the potential conflict at 5:15 p.m.

“If there is an active contract that predates ours, unfortunately ours would be invalidated at that point,” Merriss said.


Decatur Commissioners approved spending $500,000 to buy 3.95 acres next to a nature trail at Dearborn Park. Residents living nearby spoke at the City Commission meeting in favor of the purchase. The property had been eyed as a potential development, but Mayor Jim Baskett called that proposal “a bit delusional.”

Baskett said even if the city’s contract is found to be invalid, it doesn’t mean the city will be unable to purchase the property.

“I don’t want it to sound like just because someone has made a claim here that we’re dead in the water,” he said.

In other business, commissioners revised rules governing the use of city-issued credit cards. Each credit card will have a monthly limit of $3,000. The policy has always been to prohibit personal spending, Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold said. She said that commissioners have used the cards infrequently over the years.

“The city commissioners are not big users of the credit card,” Arnold said. “We do issue them. There are times when commissioners and staff alike need to use them. Use is sporadic at best.”

Commissioners also voted to create a Tax Allocation District in East Decatur. That district includes the East Decatur Station development.

It’s part of a larger trend of redevelopment in the East Decatur area. The adjacent Avondale MARTA station is being redeveloped as a Transit Oriented Development. The School Board also has about six acres along nearby Talley Street under contract as a potential site for a new school.

Tax Allocation Districts work by setting a base tax value of property. Once that happens, any additional tax revenue over the base value is earmarked for improvements in the TAD district. The base value for the 48.6 acres included in the TAD would be set at $22 million.

Communities can use TADs pay for improvements as the money comes in or, as is more likely in Decatur’s case, use the TAD to pay off money borrowed to improve the property. The proposed improvements are a storm water detention pond, which would also double as a public green space, and better connectivity among streets in the district.

Baskett said the commission’s action on Monday is the first step in a longer process.

“We’re laying in place the groundwork necessary to establish those values as of Dec. 31,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, to find out if the school system wants to participate, if it’s something where DeKalb county wants to participate in.”

Editor’s note: Due to a prior conflict, Decaturish was unable to attend Monday’s meeting. This report was produced by watching the live broadcast of the meeting. 


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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