Chamblee, GA, April 21, 2017 – by Trey Benton – Speaking to a room of about 200 attendees during his eighth annual State of the City address held at the Century Center Marriott Hotel Thursday, Chamblee Mayor Clarkson highlighted some of the City’s recent successes, gave an update on progress and touched on some of the challenges he and fellow Councilmembers face as the more than 100-year-old municipality continues its move to a walkable, eclectic, vibrant and bustling community.
“More people are talking about Chamblee than ever before,” said Clarkson. “From our residents, to visitors to business owners and investors in our community. While we are certainly paying homage to our history with the upcoming centennials of PDK and Chamblee High School, gone are the days of dairy farms and dirt roads—we’re the fifth fastest growing city in the US with a population under 100,000.”
With Chamblee being named a “hot spot” and the average home staying on the market for only 25 days, Clarkson says making sure growth is not only managed efficiently, but also effectively is a priority. “All of the development that’s happening now is the result of years of planning,” he told the room of eager listeners that included residents, local and state elected officials, City Staff and the business community. “We applaud all of those involved in our smart growth. I continually say, you must stick to your plan, parcel by parcel, block by block, year after year.”
To manage the City’s growth and transformation administratively, Chamblee brought on new staff that includes some new positions and made some personnel changes in positions that already existed. Jon Walker was hired as the new City Manager, Jodie Gilfillan as Parks and Recreation Director, Jennifer Burke as the City’s first Human Resources Manager, Al Wiggins as the City’s Deputy City Manager, Tisa Moore was hired as the City’s Public Relations Manager and staff was added to the Finance Department.
Chamblee currently has 144 full-time employees, with total staff (including part-time) reaching 181 employees this summer. The City has 152 allocated full-time positions that cover municipal services including Parks and Recreation, Sanitation and Public Works, Police, Planning and Zoning and recently the City took over Paving and Street Maintenance.
Clarkson explained on the Economic Development front, Chamblee continues to grow stronger. “Overall, market conditions continued to improve through 2016,” said Clarkson. “Commercial vacancy rates are down from 5.9% to 4.5%, and commercial lease rates per square foot are up 26% year-over-year. Three-hundred-twenty-one new business opened adding hundreds of new jobs to our City, with more to come in 2017. There are active development projects underway today, from Century Center to Savoy Drive.”
In Downtown Chamblee, the transformation to a true “City Center” continues and several new commercial and mixed-use properties are set to open their doors this year, which Clarkson expects will bring in more residents, employees and visitors to the heart of the City Clarkson often refers to as “The Center of the Universe”.
“The first Class A office building will soon begin construction, further emphasizing that high quality development works in Chamblee,” Clarkson said. “We are leveraging the City’s assets in transit and connectivity, and the market is responding with redevelopment projects ‘between the Peachtrees’ in close proximity to the Chamblee MARTA Station and the Chamblee Rail Trail.”
The Rail Trail is something Clarkson has made a personal priority and has the potential to be a piece of a larger regional connectivity and trail network plan to eventually hook in to the Atlanta Beltline. Clarkson pointed out the City adopted the Chamblee Rail Trail Extension Study last year, a plan to continue to connect neighborhoods and commercial centers. “Engineering will begin this year on new phases of the Rail Trail, giving Chamblee residents and visitors a new way to enjoy our community,” he said.
According to Mayor Clarkson, Chamblee took another step forward in 2016 to redefine the historic center of the City by acquiring more property to continue the development of a more vibrant Town Center.
“In partnership with the DDA [Downtown Development Authority], we now own the largest tract of undeveloped property in downtown and aim to continue the redevelopment of this area as a mix of shops, residences, businesses and public spaces,” Clarkson said. “This public private partnership will leverage the powers of the DDA with the expertise of private business to create investment in the downtown core. In the coming months, we will embark on a public process to determine the specifics of the Town Center and to design how this project will fit with existing development. This redevelopment will further enhance downtown Chamblee, boosting our community’s appeal as walkable, historic place to live, shop, work and visit.”
Clarkson reported that Chamblee is in excellent financial shape and to ensure it stays that way, the City adopted a financial policy which formalizes how budgeting, purchasing and auditing activities are done. At the end of 2016, the Mayor said the General Fund unaudited balance was upwards of $10.5 million – a 16% increase over 2015.
Piggybacking on the discussion of the City’s Finances, Clarkson made note that Chamblee for the third year straight, was awarded a Certificate of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. “The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of government accounting and financial reporting,” underscored Clarkson. “[A]nd its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.”
Clarkson said the City of Chamblee will continue to strengthen its Community Outreach and Public Relations efforts through meeting with Homeowners Associations, “Did-You-Know?” information and how residents can engage with the City – as well as methods to make it easy to get answers to frequently asked questions. He also said the City has developed a new resident Welcome Kit to help get people acclimated to what services the City offers and when, where and how things happen around Chamblee.
The City of Chamblee continued to grow its greenspace inventory in 2016 with the addition of the 24-acre Dresden Park. The park was acquired from DeKalb County in early ’16 and the City continues to work with community organizations such as Keep Chamblee Beautiful to transform the park and realize its full potential. Recently, Clarkson explained the City also acquired 10 more acres just south of Savoy Drive. He said he envisions that space to be used for a linear park.
In 2016, maintenance of approximately 76 centerline miles of roadway was taken over by Chamblee’s Public Works Department from DeKalb County. Soon after, Clarkson said a paving contractor was hired to begin repairing potholes and patching larger sections of roadway pavement. Going on right now, the City is in the midst its first paving project, a $2.4 million effort to pave some 7 miles of struggling roadway.
Other in-progress or soon to be in-progress Public Works projects include the streetscape project being installed along Peachtree Road and Chamblee Dunwoody Road. A streetscape and Rail Trail extension along Johnson Ferry Rd. is on the horizon as well as a center median project to improve pedestrian safety along Chamblee Tucker Road between the Wal-Mart and the new Olmsted development.
“I’m tired of seeing people having to play ‘Frogger’ to cross the very busy street there,” Clarkson noted in reference to the Chamblee Dunwoody Rd. crossing dangers. “It’s a high traffic area and once the Olmsted development comes online there will only be more people trying to cross there.”
The City adopted a Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program because many people felt like there was increased congestion on the City’s arterial and collector road network combined with drivers seeking alternative routes. After meeting certain criteria, requests will be studied, neighborhood meetings will be scheduled, solutions will be presented and it will be determined if traffic calming is a right fit.
Expanding on the topic of pedestrian safety and traffic calming, Clarkson noted that the City has installed Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at five locations known to be challenging for pedestrians. Those RRFBs can be found at:
- Peachtree Road and Malone Drive
- Peachtree Road at Miller Road
- Peachtree Road in front of Vintage Pizza and The Frosty Caboose
- New Peachtree Road at Watkins Avenue
- Plaster Road at Dresden Court
Clarkson pointed out RRFBs are “a lower cost alternative to traffic signals and have shown to improve driver yield rates at crosswalks significantly when they are supplementing standard crosswalks”.
On Police, Clarkson said crime was down year-over-year and shared the following statistics:
- 88% of Chamblee’s 911 phone calls were answered within 10 seconds or less
- Our officers responded to 43,184 calls for service
- They issued 11,037 case numbersincluding 6,236 incident reports, 1,444 accident reports and 3,487 Code enforcement notices
- They made 10,913 traffic stops and issued 10,642 citations
- They made 2,163 arrests and 215 DUI arrests
- Chamblee PD sent officers to more than 5,400 hours of GA Post training. We will average 80 hours per officer this year, which is four times the 20 hours required by POST
- CID Cases Assigned 1,378
- Homicide Investigations 5 (3 solved)
- Arrests made 64
- Arrest Warrants Obtained 268
- Search Warrants Obtained 41
- Code Enforcement Follow Ups Completed – 4,121
- Code Enforcement Citations Written – 567
- Business License Checked – 1,442
Chamblee PD has also recently taken possession of a new fleet of “take-home” Police cars that are currently being outfitted with the normal equipment found in a law enforcement vehicle. The City says these take-home vehicles will continue to keep Chamblee on par with what other jurisdictions are doing and help attract and retain the highest quality law enforcement officers.
The Mayor closed by saying, “After another incredible year, let us pause to reflect on the great things that make Chamblee what it is: incomparable residents, an ideal location, great volunteers, diverse and engaging businesses, connectivity – as well as responsive leadership. All of these things coupled with a passionate, caring community make Chamblee awesome.”
More in the video attached to this article. Mayor Clarkson’s speech begins at the 17:12 mark. Prior to the Mayor’s speech, Mayor Pro-Tem Brian Mock, Councilwoman Leslie Robson, Chamblee Chamber President Keith Mitchell and Chamblee Chamber Vice President Thom Abbott made comments.
The 2017 State of the City Address was presented and organized by the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce.