Clarkston working to create new development authority

Shawanna Qawiy, Clarkston's city manager.

Clarkston, GA — The Clarkston City Council disbanded its development authority in 2021 and began making plans to recreate it.

Development authorities promote economic development within cities.

The city council held a special meeting on Oct. 24 to go over the particulars. The new DDA would focus on the city’s town center and not the entire city as the previous one did.

“We don’t have a downtown development authority,” Councilmember YT Bell said. “The past is in the past. We know the benefit of it is to develop to promote the downtown area.”

In 2017, the City Council established the Clarkston Development Authority which had seven members, three of which were council members. The CDA was enacted by the state legislature as it was different from a standard development authority that all cities in the state have the automatic right to create. The standard version only allows one city council member to serve on the board.

The City Council, at the time, wanted to make sure it had other voices on the CDA versus just having one member serve on the CDA, Mayor Beverly Burks previously told the Tucker Observer.

“But having three, the number three is not such a good idea, especially since then if it’s brought to the council all they need is one [more] vote for anything to pass,” Burks said at the time. “So that’s, in terms of when you think about engaging the council, having those discussions, that’s not a good way to have it either.”

The CDA was meant to focus on the downtown area, but the final version of the document approved by the General Assembly included boundaries that covered the entire city, and the council members don’t know how that change occurred.

Councilmembers are looking at recreating the DDA with a narrower focus.

“The authority will focus on our central business district rather than citywide which was the previous one,” Councilmember Susan Hood said. “Since this is a brand-new entity, we will be starting from zero relative to the appointments to it.”

Resident Brian Medford urged the council to prioritize reestablishing the development authority.

“Definitely the DDA in general is something we should pursue,” Medford said. “I definitely believe that. I keep seeing news articles that Stone Mountain’s DDA has done this and Avondale’s DDA has done that. I look around, and it seems like we’re missing the bus here. The business owners involved before, they seem interested.”

Clarkston City Manager Shawanna Qawiy said the city is hopeful the DDA can be up and running by the early part of next year.

Qawiy said the DDA would focus on business retention and bringing people into the city to stay instead of just driving through Clarkston to get to a different destination. The city is also looking at creating an entertainment district.

“We want them to sit here and enjoy what Clarkston has to offer,” she said. “We want them to enjoy our businesses we do have here.”

She said the city has not identified a way to fund the DDA, saying that would be up to the city council.

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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