Clarkston City Council considering reproductive rights resolution

Students hold signs during the Hands Off Georgia protest in opposition of HB 1084 and SB 377 at Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia State Capitol on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — Clarkston City Council at its July 26 work session tabled a discussion of a resolution supporting reproductive rights, sending the item to the council’s legal committee.

The resolution supporting reproductive rights and abortion-related care says, “[The Clarkston] City Council is committed to continuing to research and determine what actions may legally be undertaken by the City to support the reproductive
rights of women, including abortion rights, moving forward.”

It’s the latest in a series of local actions aimed at protecting abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

On Monday, July 25, DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry — the former mayor of Clarkston — said he would introduce a resolution at the Aug. 2 county commission meeting that would decriminalize abortion in the county. DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston has announced she would not prosecute women who have an abortion.

Atlanta and South Fulton have passed their own resolutions decriminalizing abortion and making violations of the law “the lowest possible priority” for police officers.

In other business:

– The city council discussed a moratorium on storage companies, gas stations and small box variety stores. It will likely be considered at the council’s Aug. 4 meeting. (The regular meeting on Aug. 2 was rescheduled to Aug. 4 due to the National Night Out event.)

But the city council will likely see a proposal that has each kind of business broken out as a separate item for the council’s consideration.

Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu recommended breaking up the moratorium into three separate moratoriums, and City Attorney Stephen Quinn supported doing that.

“If this item was broken into three main parts that would be a lot better for me personally, it would be ok to explore storage units, but I’m not a supporter of putting a moratorium on gas stations and also grocery stores,” the vice mayor said.

The moratorium is intended to address an overabundance of the stores and preserve some land for other kinds of development.

The city currently has three dollar stores, eight gas stations, three storage facilities and more on the way based on approved business licenses in the city. At the same time, the city is in the process of rewriting its zoning ordinance and is taking public comments.

The memo attached to the agenda says, “we know that the presences and increases of these types of companies, facilities, and entities will have a huge impact on our economic development and desire to curate a healthy community.”

The city defines a small box variety store as, “a retail store sized between 7,500 and 16,000 square feet which sells at retail an assortment of physical goods, products, or merchandise directly to the consumer, including any combination of food or beverages for off-premises consumption, household products, personal grooming and health products, and other consumer goods.”

According to the proposal, small box variety stores are not stores that:

1.  Dedicate at least 15% of shelf space to fresh or fresh frozen food;

2.  Dedicate less than 2% of shelf space to food of any kind; or

3. Contain a prescription pharmacy.

During the meeting, it became clear — based on comments by council members — that there’s an unannounced storage unit project in the works that might be affected by this new ordinance.

Councilmember Jamie Carroll said he got a call from a developer who is interested in bringing a storage unit project to Clarkston.

Quinn said the city would have to work through whether that project would still be allowed to move forward, assuming the moratorium passes.

“It becomes a really fact-specific question when a potential developer has purchased property but has not ever communicated with the city,” Quinn said.

– City council discussed a memorandum of understanding with About-Face, USA to allocate $22,100 in federal rescue money to the organization for its “Project GROW” program. Grow is an acronym for Gardening, Rehabilitation, Outreach and Wellness.

The memo attached to the agenda says, “Through this horticulture therapy of growing vegetables and plants for the benefit of the community, participants will develop and foster genuine relationships while gaining a viable skill that will help them with growing their own food.”

The project faced numerous questions from the council and the public, with an emphasis on where the garden would be located. The council may not be ready to vote on this at the Aug. 4 meeting unless council members get more details about the proposal.

– City council discussed allocating $150,000 to $300,000 in federal rescue money for a small business facade program.

“The purpose of this façade grant program is to improve the street and store-front exteriors of the small business owner’s building structure by providing matching grants. As well as improve the aesthetic of commercial coordinators which face challenges associated with vacant and underutilized properties.”

Businesses would be required to apply for the funds and demonstrate the cost of the improvements. The city would cover 50% of the cost of the improvements, ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 for the completed work. The program will recommend identifying a Clarkston-based contractor to complete the work.

The council will consider voting on this program at its Aug. 4 meeting.

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