Historic Scottdale Mill Village and land use

One more day before the inauguration and with nerves on edge, the most I can do right now is post about my urban walks, and respond to land use violations. Today was spent working on a painting and advising someone whose boundary trees were severely damaged by illegal grading for an access road and removal of multiple specimen trees (also illegal) in preparation for a single family home on the site. I went over on Saturday morning to document the damage and walk the site with the neighbor. The county is sending code enforcement out tomorrow to issue a stop work order after I reported the violations to officials and to our DeKalb Soil & Water Conservation District. The property owner will need a good environmental attorney to help recover damages, I just happen to know a few…

This kind of illegal land disturbance unfortunately happens far too often lately. Shady developers tell their out of state contractors to start the job on the low down, to avoid the time and money it takes to get a tree assessment done and approval of a legitimate sketch plat. Today the bulldozer guy insulted both the neighbor and my colleague, who drove over to investigate after she was cc’d on my email. When she advised that he was required by law to have silt and tree protection fencing in place, his belligerent response revealed the core of why this happens:

...“oh, I can tell you’re a Democrat”. She said, “sir no one is above the law.“ His next line, “I will let you take this up with the contractor. It would cost a lot less money to get things done if I didn’t have deal with folks like you.” Bingo, pal – now you’ve cost your boss a fine and days of not being able to work, plus possible remuneration for the next door neighbor’s property damages.

His license plate includes the phrase Global War on Terrorism, which should be replaced by Global War on the Environment, because that’s his true calling.

If more citizens were aware of their recourse, and who to contact at the county or city level, the developers wouldn’t stand a chance. Luckily, the person had gotten my name from another activist. There are more of us coming to stop the dastardly developers and their nasty third party contractors. These guys deserve to make a living, but not at the expense of destroying private property and ignoring local land use regulations.

Update on Jan. 19th, from DeKalb County’s code enforcement officers with an addendum from the developer

Update: the good news is that the county takes these kinds of code violations seriously if they know about them. Because the officers found that the stream I notified them about was indeed active-although not identified as state waters on the county’s GIS mapping – and the state and county required stream buffer zone is a total of 75ft, the developer (an LLC who bought the land in Sept) must revise their sketch plat and redesign the septic system. That should take at least a few months before they can return to construction on the site.

It doesn’t help the neighbor recoup her damaged trees, but it does prevent the crew and heavy equipment from further encroaching on the stream, destroying native soils and more trees. If she hadn’t complained, they would have continued the attack.

A walk last week took me across E. Ponce de Leon Ave. into the Scottdale Mill Village. A local realtor who lives in a charming 1915 house there once denied that her house is historic – “it’s just an old house”. She also requested that I pull the photo from our civic alliance blog in the historical overview I wrote a few years ago. Because this is my personal blog, I’m sure she won’t object to – or ever find it – here.

Eliza Street, Scottdale Mill Village

Most folks appreciate the tax grants they can receive to do any type of renovation per federal regulations for historic properties. Not all, however. And not surprisingly, this person vociferously fought an ex-commissioner’s attempt over a decade ago to nominate the area as a historic district to protect the area from development and infill. This same “old house” owner has challenged me to refrain from voting to deny a recent subdivision and rezoning in a neighborhood nearby whose community is universally and adamantly opposed to it. I guess she forgot that our local volunteer but commissioner appointed community council represents the neighborhoods and not the developers and realtors who might happen to own lots nearby.

I suppose we’ll see townhome subdivisions and apartment complexes in the future in the mill village, once the bigger landowners like her sell off their properties. The owner and founder of Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market also owns several parcels, one that could be called the “town square”, a pastoral rectangle of lawn surrounded by historic and quaint homes. The character of the area will forever be changed at that point, but at least it will be documented in these pages. The proposed boundary map.

Nomination here with photos of the early buildings. Unfortunately, the xerox copy that was emailed to me in 2016 by the DeKalb History Center is almost too faint to read.

Evidently only domestic pets travel these tiny streets.
Many houses date from the early 1900s.
Patterson Ave.

I was the only person walking through the village one afternoon, admiring the birdhouses, raised garden beds, greenhouses and lawn ornaments. No one was out, except for one man chopping wood in his side yard.

Newfield Way
Several artists live in the mill village, one of whom owns a gallery in Decatur. I’m not familiar with this folk art gallery but it looks inviting.
Patterson Ave.
This house fronts E. Ponce de Leon and is for sale by the owner.
E. Ponce de Leon and Longmeadow

It’s always a bit sad to realize how little people appreciate historic structures. No one visits Europe to see high rise office or apartment buildings (other than Antonio Gaudi’s historic Casa Mila in Spain), but tell that to the property owner who stands to make a bundle if the Scottdale Mill Village meets its demise in a flurry of commercial “redevelopment”. Greed, say hello to the death of craftsmanship and art.

The walk took me back across E. Ponce into Scottdale proper, which continues to benefit from its specimen trees, some covered with ivy or other vines, but still providing excellent habitat for wildlife and energy benefits for the community.

This tree may have mistletoe or another invasive vine hanging off its branches
Looking down Booker Ave. from Kelly Street
From Google maps, 2018, at least one parcel on Booker is still for sale.
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