Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council on Thursday narrowly adopted a higher tax for property owners who don’t keep their homes and businesses up to code.
The council voted to penalize such owners with a millage rate that’s six times higher than the regular rate. Several steps would have to be completed before that blight tax kicks in, starting with a request for property inspection by a public officer or a request by at least seven city residents.
If the property is determined to be blighted, the owner will be notified and have 30 days to request a municipal court hearing. A judge makes the final determination whether to charge the blight tax. Property owners may appeal that decision to the DeKalb Superior Court.
The city will remove the blight tax if the owner brings the property up to code.
The council voted 3 to 3 on the ordinance, triggering a vote by Mayor Patricia Wheeler. She broke the tie by voting in favor of the ordinance.
“We’ve been discussing this and I think that a lot of the miscommunication is that this mostly will be the business district,” she said. “Residential would only fall on the person that owns the house.”
In other news from Thursday’s council meeting, the city granted a filming application for the ABC network reboot of “The Wonder Years.” Portions of Main Street and 2nd Street will be closed on Nov. 18 between 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. to accommodate the filming.
The show will film inside a business on Main Street with the camera panning out onto street.
“Because we are a 1960s period show, anytime the camera pans outside … we would like the setback to be a 1960s theme,” location coordinator Cayman Eby said.
The show will also film in several parking lots off Main Street that day as well.
“We would like to put some 1960s vehicles in there,” Eby said.
The council also narrowly voted to extend the city’s state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This would then allow [council] to start meeting in person,” Mayor Pro Tem Chakira Johnson said. “We spent money on converting the courtroom and with all our other conditions in place I think we can be safe.”
City Councilmember Clint Monroe called the move “irresponsible.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic ended? I’m stumped,” he said. “This flies in the face of reality.”
The council voted 4 to 2 to extend the state of emergency another month.
The council also discussed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees. Around one-third of the 32 employees are known to be vaccinated. Several Stone Mountain Police Department employees created a petition against the mandate, with more than a dozen officers signing it.
Very few council members showed support for a mandate on Thursday. Monroe made a motion for twice-weekly COVID-19 testing of employees instead, but the motion failed. City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton will look into instituting once or twice-weekly testing and report back to council.
The council voted unanimously to allow street closures for the 2022 Mardi Gras Parade on Feb. 26. It will be the first parade since before the pandemic hit.
The parade route will go from East Mountain Street and 3rd Street, to East Mountain and Main Street, to Main and Manor Drive, to Manor and 3rd, to 3rd and East Mountain. The council also voted to allow Mardi Gras banners to be hanged in two spots downtown from Jan. 28 to Feb. 26.
The council also voted to observe the New Year’s Day holiday on Friday, Dec. 31 for city employees this year.
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