All about the green

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Decatur’s green space nets city $800,000

Decatur’s decision to acquire the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) property in August is starting to pay off.

On Nov. 20, the Decatur city commission unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County that will provide Decatur with $800,000 to improve green space projects on the UMCH property.

According to Decatur officials, DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon acquired funding from the county’s special recreation tax district general obligations bonds. The bonds were part of a 2001 referendum approving $125 million to acquire land for additional parks and natural areas as well as preserving green space and making greenspace improvements.

“We express our thanks to Commissioner Gannon and the county government for making those funds available in our area. I think it would be nice to have that additional funding to have the trails improved and make the space more inviting,” said Mayor Patti Garrett.

Peggy Merriss, Decatur city manager, said the city must use the proceeds on six possible projects. According to the agreement, Decatur has 10 years from the date of receiving the funds to undertake certain greenspace projects.

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The city can decide to use all of the $800,000 on one project, or distribute the money among other projects such as construction of new walking, biking or pedestrian trails; improvements to existing walking trails; preparation of master plan for green space areas; removal of invasive species; improvements for pond access, including construction of observation deck and improvements to the existing pond.

“We can do it all at once and do a major project, or we can [spend the money] over a few years because there are a number of different projects,” Merriss said. “We haven’t allocated this money to any projects yet but we appreciate Commissioner Gannon’s participation.”

In August 2017, Decatur officials completed the sale of approximately 77 acres of property owned by the UMCH. The process of acquiring the property took nine months and Decatur purchased the land for an estimated $40 million.

Approximately 22 acres of the property will be dedicated for use as a permanently protected conservation area. Decatur plans to have a community-based master planning effort in January 2018 to determine the future use of the UMCH property.

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