Let’s face it. One of the reasons that Greenhaven, or any cityhood movement, is on the table is because of the many, let’s just say, inefficiencies of DeKalb County government. However, we must admit that DeKalb isn’t completely incompetent and in fact many departments run smoothly and there are quite a few quality employees that serve their constituents, us, in an exemplary manner.
One of those folks is the new District 7 Commissioner, Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, no relation to Larry Johnson. She listens to her constituents and has in less than a year shown that she truly cares about the 350,000 citizens she serves. She fights for them when there is often resistance from within DeKalb County government. This is not an endorsement for her from Neighbors Against Greenhaven, but only to show that we do have people within DeKalb County who are on our side.
The perfect example of this started with an innocent post on Nextdoor in the Belvedere Park area. Someone posed a question on what should become of 1395 Columbia Drive, Decatur, 30032. It’s better known as the Shaker Furniture company. Here is a portion of the post:
“The Shaker Furniture Store at 1395 Columbia Drive has been many things over the years. I believe the furniture portion is still open, however, 75% of the remaining building is still vacant, a blight and just plain ugly . In the past they have tried to open a nightclub.
Any ideas of what us neighbors would like for it to be? A better, cleaner grocery store? A brewery? A popup shop for locally owned small companies or A WeWork type facility for Decatur small businesses? County buys the property and turns into a government office?”
There were nearly 200 responses, but most importantly several people emailed both Commissioners Lorraine Cochran-Johnson and Larry Johnson. Ms. Cochran-Johnson responded within 24 hours and notified code enforcement as well with “a thorough and helpful update about the property. DeKalb County issued a code violation notice that was extensive, and the property owner has until 8/30 to act to avoid the county demolishing the property at his expense.
– The property owner has refused opportunities to sell the property in the past, but the county is hopeful that the code violation notice will encourage immediate action.” Commissioner Larry Johnson never responded to those who reached out to him.
Now it is in the hands of Code Enforcement. Once the process arrives at this point it may appear that DeKalb County isn’t doing anything, however, it is a long and tedious legal process to get either the owner to demolish a blighted property or for DeKalb County to get permission to do so. DeKalb does have a demolition program that hopefully ends with In Rem. In Rem is the legal process used to take control of the property so that a demolition may occur. It does not, however, allow for the taking of property. So once the blighted property is torn down, a lien is assessed against the owner for the cost of the demo and any back taxes owed, but the owner retains possession of the property. This is where the State should step in, however, property rights are a serious issue and even if it is a blighted property most politicians will not touch this subject. To Commissioner Larry Johnson’s credit he has attempted to address this with State Legislators.
This process can take years and the County has limited funds, so once it does get through the legal tangle to demo a property it may not have the funds to demolish every property on the list, just the most egregious. If you’d like to read further about DeKalb County’s Demolition program here is the link.
In addition, on August 31, Commissioner Cochran-Johnson held a town hall forum in South DeKalb with the following topics:
* Gentrification and Displacement
* Property Taxes and Home Values
* Affordable and Senior Housing
* Crime and Justice Reform
* Small Business Survival
* Infrastructure (Road Quality & the 285/20 exchange construction project)
* The Future of DeKalb
Obviously, with this wide range of topics everything wasn’t solved, but it’s great that one of our Commissioners is putting forth the effort to make DeKalb a better place.
As far as Greenhaven, the “word on the street” is that they are considering reducing their footprint, however, we haven’t received conformation as of yet, so if anyone has anymore information on that please bring it to our attention.