Stonecrest’s first municipal court was called to order at 9 a.m., Tuesday. Judge Michael Sheridan presided over the first court session that was held to adjudicate five city environmental ordinance violations issued by the city’s code enforcement officers. Lenny Felgin served as the city’s solicitor. Deputies from DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office are slated to serve as bailiffs until Stonecrest establishes its own law enforcement division.
Municipal court is scheduled for the second Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. and the fourth Thursday at 6 p.m. - 2/15/18
Mayor Jason Lary and city staff members met with Vaugh Irons and the Atlanta Sports City staff today to begin plans for the construction of their first athletic fields. Irons and Chris Daniluk, CEO of Deluxe Athletics, will be applying for permits to build six multipurpose fields and three baseball fields on Mall Parkway. The multipurpose athletic fields can be used for sports ranging from soccer to lacrosse.
Construction of the turf fields will begin around March 15, 2018, with a targeted completion by the end of June. “We already have tournaments scheduled for July,” Irons said. Daniluk, whose company will be responsible for the construction of the fields, said he will submit the proper plans and apply for the grading permit before the end of February.
The mayor acknowledged that this construction will involve a change to the Stonecrest overlay district. An ordinance must be adopted to change the overlay district allowing for the construction of athletic playing fields. The mayor said that he and his staff will do whatever it takes to get this project off the ground and make Atlanta Sports City a success. - 1/31/18
Mayor Jason Lary and the city council elected councilmember George Turner as their new mayor pro tem in a 5 to 0 vote today. Outgoing mayor pro tem Diane Adoma abstained from voting. The council held the election in accordance with the city charter which directs the council to elect a new mayor pro tem during the first scheduled meeting in January after a regular election. Three councilmembers; Diane Adoma, Jimmy Clanton and Jazzmin Cobble were re-elected last November and sworn in during a January 3rd special called council meeting.c
Mayor Pro Tem Turner will be responsible for presiding over council meetings if Mayor Jason Lary is absent. Read more on George Turner. - 1/23/18
Mayor Jason Lary received news today that Stonecrest is a part of the list of finalists for the new Amazon Headquarters. The list of 20 cities listed Atlanta but according to the Georgia Economic Development Office, this includes metro Atlanta and thus, Stonecrest. “We are excited that our efforts are paying off. Members of the state’s economic development office applauded our marketing and branding efforts and credited us for helping shine a positive light on this area,” Mayor Lary said.
Stonecrest is offering to de-annex 345 acres for the retail giant’s headquarters. The city also used geo-fencing through a Seattle-based marketing firm to get a web-based, information video, and a site visit invitation directly to Amazon executives.
The mayor said that he has also spoken with Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about collaborating with her to help win the bid for the metro area. “We are stronger together versus separate as both areas have unique assets,” the mayor said.
The next step for Stonecrest and other metro cities included in the Atlanta bid will be to prepare for a site visit from Amazon executives. The visits are slated for the first quarter of this year. - 1/18/18
Councilmembers Jimmy Clanton, Jazzmin Cobble, and Diane Adoma were sworn in for their first full term today during a special called city council meeting. The councilmembers were originally elected in the city’s first elections and runoffs in March and April 2017. In accordance with the city charter, half of the council had to run again in November of 2017 and the remaining councilmembers and mayor will have to run for office in 2019.
In other city business, the mayor and council voted 5 to 1 to adopt a new city charter. The charter now goes to the state legislature for approval. “The reason we have a new charter is to separate the executive branch from the legislative branch and their duties,” Mayor Jason Lary said. “By law, we have to take on additional departments such as public works. Also, the addition of a SPLOST budget drove us to adopt the new charter,” he added.
The new charter provides for the following:
Stonecrest Mayor and City Council unanimously passed a $6.2 million budget during a special call meeting yesterday evening. Next year’s budget balances out with the city having $851,150 in its reserve fund. “This is a pivotal point in our city’s history. We will finish 2017 with more than $100,000 in reserves after our debts have been paid. Next year our reserves will be far greater,” Mayor Jason Lary said. The mayor also pointed out that residents did not receive any increases in property taxes in 2017 and will not experience any property tax increases in 2018. Lary cited proper planning and good fiscal management as the reasons for the city’s success. “For a new city to finish their first year with a positive cash flow is phenomenal,” the mayor said.
The mayor cited a few examples of his staff’s fiscal responsibility. He said that he and city leaders were able to furnish and move into city hall for less than $10,000. The city staff occupied a temporary, rent-free office space from July to November 2017. They moved into the new city hall in November but will not begin paying for the 13,000-square-foot facility until April 2018.
The budget does not include revenue from the recently passed Special Local Option Sales Tax which is slated to add $7.6 million annually to the city’s bank account. A separate SPLOST budget was adopted in November for the allocation of these funds. See 2018 Budget Spreadsheet - 12/29/17
Mayor Jason Lary joined several local mayors and political leaders yesterday at a press conference thanking the public for their support of the Special Local Option Sales Tax. Seventy percent of the voters throughout DeKalb County favored the SPLOST to fund capital improvements.
Stonecrest will receive more than $47 million over the next six years. The mayor said the funds will give the city the ability to address several neglected areas in the infrastructure, including paying roads, repairing potholes, improving transportation and enhancing public safety. “After the city’s comprehensive assessment of road conditions, we will immediately work to resurface, patch and/or fill potholes. Road repairs are projected to start early next year,” the mayor said. “We will move swiftly to engage the citizens of Stonecrest and with their input, complete a series of transportation improvement plans. Citizen participation will be needed in upcoming community meetings to ensure that our transportation plans are reflective of our needs,” he added. The mayor said that in weeks to come, a Pothole Hotline will be created as well as a citizen-driven SPOST Oversight Committee.
Mayor Lary said that in the coming months, a feasibility study will be conducted to address the city’s public safety needs. The study will provide information to guide the spending of funds for a new police department. Mayor Lary praised the city and county voters. SPLOST funds will make a huge difference in the continued progress of Stonecrest, according to the mayor. - 11/9/17
Today at 4 pm, Mayor Jason Lary took the first swing of a sledgehammer and even jumped in an excavator to begin the demolition of the abandoned hotel commonly known as the Cinder Block Inn. The mayor and staff worked diligently with the property owners to ensure that the hotel was demolished as Lary promised during his candidacy for mayor.
“The process was about working with people and letting them know that we are emphatic about our community,” the mayor said. Lary’s Code Enforcement Manager, Al Ferrell said that he sent the owners of the property a letter of violation recently. The letter encouraged compliance with the city’s abandoned building ordinances and gave the owners 90 days to comply. Ferrell said shortly after speaking with the owners, he noticed an application for demolition and a schedule to comply with the ordinance.
The demolition will take three to four days according to Zenon & Zenon Contractors, Inc. owner Orlando Zenon. - 10/11/17
Today newspapers and media from around the nation are reporting on Mayor Jason Lary’s unique bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Stonecrest. The mayor and council voted 4-2, yesterday to de-annex 345 acres of land and ask the Georgia General Assembly to use it to form Amazon, Georgia. “There are several major U.S. cities that want Amazon, but none has the branding opportunity we are now offering this visionary company,” the mayor said.
Amazon is seeking a 100-acre site that has access to an international airport, public transit and a high quality of living. The proposed land, located off South Stone Mountain-Lithonia Road, allows enough space for Amazon to expand into its proposed 8 million-square-foot campus over the next decade. The e-commerce retail and cloud computing giant will bring 50,000 jobs to the area with salaries averaging $100,000 annually. A fact sheet released by Amazon also said the company will invest $5 billion in capital expenditures over the next 15 to 17 years.
The mayor’s idea has taken off, putting the once-unheard-of city of Stonecrest in the national spotlight. The Stonecrest quest for Amazon story was picked up by the Associated Press and is running in every media outlet from Fortune.com and Bloomberg to CNBC. Amazon will decide on its second location next year. The deadline for submissions is October 19, 2017. - 10/4/17
Mayor Jason Lary and Council Members Diane Daniels Adoma and Jimmy Clanton helped the managers of Burlington Coat Factory celebrate their grand opening last Friday. Regional VP Terry Mosley, Burlington's Stonecrest Store Manager Greg Sapp, Eric Hubbard from Congressman Hank Johnson's Office, the mayor and council members participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a donation of 3 pallets of new store items to Helping Oppressed Mothers Endure, Inc. The organization, HOME, Inc helps single working or student mothers survive the tough times and persevere towards an appointed time for success in life, according to Carolyn A. Watson, the founder. "We provide immediate resources to rebuild, restore and furnish homes of moms emerging from divorce, violence or in desperate need of starting over," she said. Mayor Lary expressed his appreciation to Burlington. "You have started out doing great things in the community on your first official day in business. We support you and welcome you to Stonecrest," Lary said.
Mayor Lary recently welcomed Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva to Stonecrest during a private dinner and reception at the Allen Institute. After dinner, the mayor presented the Silva with a key to the city and an official letter inviting the prime minister to enter into a sister-city relationship that will foster educational, professional, and economic exchanges.
The city of Stonecrest is among several municipalities across the country competing to lure Amazon’s new headquarters, which will be built in North America.Mayor Jason Lary announced at the Sept. 18th City Council meeting that Stonecrest has formally expressed its interest in attracting the tech giant. “We are sending in our bid. We will be competing with Vancouver, Toronto, Atlanta and other major cities across the country,” said Lary. “I believe we have a good shot at drawing that type of platform,” Lary said Stonecrest’s close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the city’s focus on economic development make Stonecrest a prime candidate for consideration.
Amazon announced on Sept. 7 its plans to open HQ2, a second headquarters, in North America. The facilities would be equal to its campus in Seattle. Amazon said the new headquarters should have easy access to an airport with direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. The company plans to spend billions of dollars developing the headquarters and will hire 50,000 workers - 9/27/17
Mayor Jason Lary and the city council approved a resolution affirming support for the call for a referendum on a one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, today during a special call meeting. Their unanimous vote positions them to be in support of a county referendum to be voted on next Tuesday. If the county referendum passes, voters will decide on the SPLOST this November.
Special town hall meetings will continue throughout the city, giving business owners and residents the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the SPLOST. In past public meetings, attendees suggested improvements and projects to be funded by the city’s portion of the SPLOST proceeds. The enclosed Exhibit A will provide an overview of the capital projects on which, the council intends to spend SPLOST proceeds.
The Georgia Legislature gave counties the option to implement SPLOSTS more than 30 years ago. SPLOSTs have always been placed on the ballot for approval by the county in which it is to be implemented. The proceeds from the tax must go toward capital projects. The state also mandated that municipalities receive a share of the county’s SPLOST revenues. The revenue amounts are determined by the size of the city’s population. It is estimated that Stonecrest will receive more than $47 million over the next six years. If the SPLOST vote passes, Stonecrest will start receiving funds around May 2018. - 9/21/17
Mayor Jason Lary administered the oath of office yesterday to Stonecrest’s first two municipal judges. Jonathan Weintraub was sworn in as the chief judge and Michael Sheridan took the oath for the judge pro tem. Weintraub and Sheridan are not newcomers to the DeKalb legal system. Weintraub was the county attorney for seven and a half years and served two years deputy chief operating officer and legal counsel to the chief operating officer. Weintraub also served five years as the county attorney for Gwinnett and three years as their assistant county attorney. Sheridan has practiced law for 11 years in DeKalb and is a partner at the law firm Davis & Sheridan, LLC. “These are the two best qualified people,” Lary said. “These attorneys would serve the city best as judges. They have been working in the DeKalb County for years,” he added. - 8/31/17
Business owners and service providers who decide to promote their businesses with signs on the right of ways in Stonecrest may not receive the customers that their advertising once yielded. The primary reason for this is that their signs are being removed by Stonecrest Code Enforcement Officers. “We recently went out and picked up more than 60 signs that were illegally placed,” said Al Ferrell, Chief Code Enforcement Officer.
Placing signs in right of ways such as the grass adjacent to Turner Hill Road is illegal regardless of the size and type of sign. This violates the city’s sign ordinance and can carry up to a $1,000 fine per sign. This offense like many ordinance violations is considered a misdemeanor and therefore can go on an individual’s criminal record. Ferrell said that he and his officers are trying to gain compliance before issuing citations. “We are encouraging people not to violate these sign ordinances; however, after a warning, we will issue citations,’ Ferrell said. - 8/24/17
Providers of local utilities are entering into franchise fee agreements with Stonecrest officials after the mayor and council passed the final ordinance for fee adoption this week. The agreement will assess franchise fees on AT&T, Atlanta Gas Light, Snapping Shoals EMC, Comcast, and Georgia Power. The fees are paid by the utility companies for rental and use of the city’s right of ways. These areas are used to run cables, gas lines, and wiring needed to provide utility service to city residents and businesses.
Franchise fees range from three to five percent of customer’s gas, telephone, cable and electric bills. This amount is set by Georgia’s Public Service Commission and is charged by most cities. “Throughout Georgia, utility companies are required to pay these fees. The utility company determines if they pass these fees on to their customers,” said Plez Joyner, assistant city manager. For example, Snapping Shoals EMC passes the entire 4% fee to their customers; whereas, Georgia Power only passes a portion of that same amount to their customers. Atlanta Gas Light’s agreement is already in place. Snapping Shoals EMC will enact their agreement September 1, 2017. Other franchise agreements for companies such as AT&T, Georgia Power, and Comcast are in the final process and should become effective within 60 days.
Franchise fees are paid directly to the city and are used to supplement the city’s operating budget. Counties are not allowed to charge these fees. - 8/22/17
Mayor Jason Lary and the Stonecrest City Council approved all necessary ordinances to lift the building permit and land development moratorium tonight at midnight. The Stonecrest Zoning Ordinance, a modified version of the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance was adopted unanimously by the council. Changes to the ordinance include the rezoning for sexually oriented businesses. The council will only allow sexually oriented businesses, mainly adult entertainment clubs, in industrial areas zoned M2.
The Council appointed and confirmed the city’s first municipal court judge and judge pro tem, yesterday. Former DeKalb County Staff Attorney Jonathan Weintraub was appointed as Stonecrest’s chief judge and local attorney Michael Sheridan was appointed as his judge pro tem. Both positions will likely be part-time as the city establishes a court for ordinance and code enforcement violations. Stonecrest City Court will be held in City Hall once renovations are completed. The scheduled completion date will in October 2017.
A new Sign Ordinance was unanimously adopted. The mayor and council updated the DeKalb County Sign Ordinance to limit the size and the way signs are constructed. The ordinance also prohibited abandoned or damaged signs. As in the DeKalb Ordinance, city laws prohibit placing signs in the right of way adjacent to city roads and highways. The new city ordinance includes photos so that residents and business owners can view examples of acceptable, legal signs.
Three new Ford Fusions, one Ford 150 and a Ford Transit Connect are the initial vehicles in the city’s fleet. The vehicles will be used for code enforcement, building inspection, and administrative duties. As the fleet grows so is the staff that will occupy them. Lillian Lowe and Leah Rodriguez joined the Stonecrest staff as administrative assistants. Josh Roth is the city’s new building official and William Kirkland is the city’s first code enforcement officer.
The DeKalb County Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the city council. The plan outlines strategies and goals for residential, commercial, and industrial growth, along with land use, transportation, natural and cultural resources planning. The city can use the county’s plan for two years. Council and mayor must then adopt their own 20-year plan in accordance with Georgia law. As a part of the city’s plan for growth and economic development, the mayor and council appointed Bernard Knight to the East Metro Community Improvement District Board of Directors. Knight, an attorney who represents several businesses in the city, will be responsible for negotiating intergovernmental agreements for the provision of services by the CID as well as ensuring that the CID is allocating the proper funds to Stonecrest businesses.
The council’s last appointments were to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Council members could nominate one member to the commission.
The appointees are:
District 1 – J. W. Eady
District 2 – Wanda McNeil
District 3 – Eric Hubbard
District 4 – Michelle Emanuel
District 5 – Lisa Wright.
Finalizing a previous agenda item, the council adopted an ordinance to collect hotel and motel taxes from the city’s 10 lodging facilities. The tax will be 5 percent of the fees charged to customers for lodging. City officials and members of the Discover DeKalb Convention and Visitors’ Bureau will lobby state lawmakers next year to increase the tax to 8 percent. This will be in line with what most cities in the county collect as well as what DeKalb County collects from hotels and motels in the unincorporated areas. - 8/8/17
Mayor Jason Lary and the City Council will vote on a final hotel/motel tax ordinance at their next scheduled meeting on Monday. The ordinance will assess a 5 percent tax to Stonecrest’s 10 hotels and motels for fees charged to their guest for lodging. The tax is 3 percent lower than hotel operators have been paying to DeKalb County.
On June 19, 2017, the mayor and council approved an 8 percent hotel/motel tax but later found that they had to rescind the ordinance until city officials get the approval of the State Legislature to charge 8 percent. Once approved the additional 3 percent will go toward promoting and marketing tourism, conventions and trade shows in accordance with the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Georgia law only allows for 3 percent of the tax to go into the city’s General Fund. Taxes collected in excess of 3 percent must go into tourism and trade promotion. The city has not established a visitors’ bureau; therefore, the additional tax will go to the Discover DeKalb Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The DCVB serves the entire county but will designate marketing and tourism funds for Stonecrest that match the amount of taxes collected. The tax shortfall for Stonecrest could be as much as $100,000 for the remainder of the year. Mayor and council are confident that they can persuade legislators to raise the taxes to 8 percent. According to James Tsismanakis, DDCVB director, 11 out of DeKalb’s 14 cities have hotels or motels. Of those 11 cities, Doraville and Decatur are the only ones that charge less that the standard 8 percent tax.
City funding won’t just stop with the Hotel/Motel Tax. Recently, the mayor and council voted to approve a Tax Anticipation Note for $579,000. IberiaBank Corporation and city officials finalized the note, Tuesday and the funds will be available today with the stipulation that all money borrowed must be paid back before the end of the each calendar year in which it was borrowed. The Tax Anticipation Note is designed to help fund the city until tax revenues begin to come in, according to City Attorney Tom Kurrie. Attached to the note is a $1 million line of credit which can be paid back over time.
Three new Ford Fusions, one Ford 150 and a Ford Transit Connect are the initial vehicles in the city’s fleet. The vehicles will be used for code enforcement, building inspection, and administrative duties. As the fleet grows so is the staff that will occupy them. Lillian Lowe and Leah Rodriguez joined the Stonecrest staff as administrative assistants. Josh Roth is the city’s new building official and William Kirkland is the city’s first code enforcement officer. - 8/3/17
City Manager, Michael Harris and Account Manager Audrey Mays deposited the city’s first check on Monday, July 17, 2017, immediately after the Stonecrest mayor and council voted to use BB&T for the city’s banking services.
In the same council meeting, Mayor Jason Lary appointed Michael Sheridan as Stonecrest’s first municipal judge and Jonathan Weintraub as the judge pro tem; however, the city council chose to defer these appointments until the August 7th council meeting.
“These are the two best qualified people,” Lary said. “These attorneys would serve the city best as judges. They have been working in the DeKalb County for years,” Lary added. Sheridan, a graduate of Howard University, has practiced law for 11 years. He is a partner in the law firm, Davis & Sheridan, LLC. Jonathan Weintraub is a former county attorney with DeKalb County government. His education background includes degrees from Syracuse University, Georgia State University and a Juris Doctorate from Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. Weintraub has more than 38 years of government, local, and municipal law experience.
In other city business, the mayor and council agreed on a resolution for membership in the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Association. Membership allows the city to purchase general and property liability insurance as well as insurance for city document errors and omissions. The annual premium will cost the city $14, 050 which will be prorated for 2017. The mayor and council also voted unanimously to accept a new city logo and to approve the use of QS/1 Governmental financial software to help the tracking of business licenses and budgeting. Council and mayor also voted the appointment of Grey, Pannell and Woodward, LLP as the special counsel for the city’s tax anticipation note.
Topping off the week’s activities was the arrival of the first two city vehicles. The 2017 Ford Focus models arrived Friday and will be used for city administrative services and initial code enforcement. - 7/21/17
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