Saturday, June 4, 2016

What the DeKalb Cross-Neighborhoods Council Actually Does

How the Sausage Gets Made – What the DeKalb Cross-Neighborhoods Council Actually Does

by Mary Shellman

Who we are: The DeKalb Cross-Neighborhoods Council (DCNC) is a coalition of community leaders representing residents in negotiations with developers concerning commercial and residential development in and around our neighborhoods. The DCNC alliance aims to ensure that the outcome of local economic development will bring measurable, permanent improvements to the lives of affected residents.

MANA’s Zoning Chair, Theresa Same, maintains a robust leadership role on the DCNC, working to identify project specific impacted communities; sharing her zoning expertise; and bringing a tactful yet calm approach to negotiations.

Coming from varied backgrounds, the other DCNC members each bring unique skills and a willingness to work hard for their communities. In addition to MANA, the current DCNC team working on the Fuqua 3 project represents Clairmont Heights Civic Association (Jim Smith & Michael Dowling), Greater Valley Brook Civic Association (Elizabeth Roberts), Tuxworth Springs Condo Association (Jean Logan), Good Growth DeKalb (Mary Shellman), and the neighborhoods of Ridgeland Park (Garrett Assay) and Springdale Heights (Todd Link).

What we want: DCNC promotes the inclusion of desired amenities such as quality restaurants, employment centers, and service and retail establishments which satisfy the needs of the community; the use of quality construction materials and desirable architectural styles which are compatible with the existing neighborhoods; and a percentage of affordable workforce housing and senior housing.

We also insist on developments that adhere to smart growth principles by defining traffic patterns and impact on existing neighborhoods and implementing traffic mitigation strategies. We push for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle pathways throughout and surrounding the developments.

In a perfect world, all new development would be parkland. Unfortunately, the most difficult piece to negotiate has been our goal to limit environmental impact by striving to retain, replace and enhance greenspace within development.

What influences negotiations: We are restricted by the dictates of the county zoning code. The amount of leverage we are able to exert during negotiations is directly proportional to the property’s current zoning designation and the type and number of zoning changes and special permits requested by the developer.

We are fortunate to have County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon who have encouraged us and often complement our conditions with their own. Their planning expertise and support has been essential to our efforts.

The contract: Addressing a range of community issues, properly structured contracts can ensure that a developer’s promises regarding community benefits are legally enforceable. Developers “pitching” a project often make promises that are never written into any project approval documents, and even when they are, they may not be monitored and enforced by the relevant government agencies.

The conditions list and contract between DCNC and the developer create an additional enforcement mechanism and expands the class of parties who can enforce these promises.

Community Involvement: We work to maintain a strong community voice in the development of our neighborhoods. Each participant on DCNC represents many residents of DeKalb and our strength during negotiations comes from those numbers. To that end, your participation and input are crucial. Listen up, attend meetings, check the MANA website and send us your feedback. At any time during the process you can email the committee at to send your input and we strongly encourage you to do so.