The Statham City Council voted Nov. 16 to keep the city’s millage rate the same despite staff’s recommendation to increase it slightly to ensure full funding of the city’s adopted fiscal year 2022 budget. But the city accountant said after the vote that the anticipated cuts to the budget aren’t likely to be significant.

The five-member council was unanimous in its decision to keep the rate at 4.003 mills — roughly halfway between the 4.345 mills city officials had projected would be necessary to fund the budget in its entirety and the state formula-recommended “roll back” rate of 3.725 mills. Officials have said at previous meetings the state’s recommendation was based on the amount of residential growth in the city but didn’t take into account the city’s ineligibility for most state grant money until it gets fully caught up on its financial audits or the inclusion of major infrastructure projects in the budget.

Mayor Joe Piper, in early discussions on the millage rate, had cautioned that rolling back to 3.725 would have meant steep cuts to the adopted budget, which included a $1.79 million General Fund. While he initially estimated $300,000 in potential cuts, he later said those projections had been revised downward.

With the millage rate staying the same, the city is projected to collect $271,800 in property taxes for the year and would have about a $23,200 deficit, city accountant April Stephens said. The council would have to approve any budget amendments to balance the budget.

“There is not a proposal on the table at this point (for cuts), but I don’t foresee an issue with reducing the city’s expenditures by $23,200,” Stephens said. She added that she would likely propose a budget amendment after the first of the new year after reviewing where the city stands with revenue collections at the midway point of the fiscal year.

REZONING REQUEST FOR SUBDIVISION TABLED

Also at its Nov. 16 meeting, the council voted 3-2 — with Tammy Crawley and Gary Venable opposed — to table until next month a request to rezone roughly 12 acres to the west of the intersection of Atlanta Highway and Mulberry Street for a residential subdivision of up to 62 townhomes and commercial space to be built.

The decision to table the case until the council’s Dec. 2 work session and a presumed vote at its Dec. 14 voting session came after revisions to the city staff’s and planning consultant’s recommended approval of the requests and subsequent late changes to the applicants’ site plan.

The revised plans, at planning consultant Jerry Weitz’s recommendation, would put the sole access to the townhomes off Atlanta Highway rather than Mulberry Street. Weitz, at the request of an adjacent property owner, also recommended changing the zoning for the proposed roughly 2.6-acre commercial tract to Office-Institutional rather than Highway Business.

In the staff report, Weitz wrote that Mulberry Street “is a substandard right of way and substandard pavement.” Even if the property owner/developer were required to dedicate all of the right of way necessary to bring Mulberry Street up to standards, Weitz said, the street would still be substandard to the south of the property and therefore inappropriate for additional traffic.

Weitz recommended that the owner/developer install a right-turn deceleration lane into the proposed neighborhood or an additional lane along the neighborhood frontage on the eastbound side of Atlanta Highway.

Adam Rozen, an attorney representing the applicants, said a 30-foot easement would be dedicated to the city for any future improvements on Mulberry Street.

The staff-recommended conditions propose a 1,725-heated-square-foot minimum for townhomes and two-car garages for each unit.

While the recommendation to move the proposed neighborhood entrance off Mulberry Street addressed residents’ concerns that were raised at a Nov. 4 public hearing on the requests, residents still voiced concerns over potential water runoff and traffic issues the development would create.

Crawley, whose term on the council expires at the end of this year and who did not seek re-election, indicated she would ultimately vote against the request.

“We have subdivisions being built now (and) we don’t know how much that is going to impact our city as it is,” Crawley said. “There are so many variables that we don’t know. And bringing more (residential development) at this time, I can’t see that.”

PRELIMINARY PLAT FOR STATHAM PLACE TABLED OVER CODE VIOLATION CONCERNS

The council also tabled until December a vote on a preliminary plat for the proposed 36-lot Statham Place subdivision between Dooley Town Road and Highway 211 due to staff’s concerns with alleged code violations at the site and an adjacent site where 10 lots are currently being developed along Highway 211.

Weitz said the more than 50-acre swath of land in question was originally proposed as a single residential subdivision in an October 2020 concept plan submitted to the city, but the applicants later proposed to only build the 10-lot Jackson Estates development fronting 211 and indicated to the city that the remaining acreage would remain undeveloped. Since then, Weitz said, the property has been split into two and the city was later presented with the Statham Place plan.

Weitz said code enforcement inspectors with city contractor Bureau Veritas, on Nov. 9, discovered code violations at the Jackson Estates and proposed Statham Place sites, where land-disturbance activities were occurring without the proper permitting. Mayor Joe Piper said stop-work orders have since been issued, and an investigation had been turned over to state environmental authorities.

Weitz said that while the ownership of the two properties may be technically different, the properties appear to remain connected with the same contact person and engineer listed on the applications. He recommended tabling the preliminary plat request so that the code violation issues could be resolved and to see whether developers would be willing to construct a street connecting Highway 211 and Dooley Town Road, which staff had proposed as a condition for the originally-planned development.

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