Save the United Methodist Children's Home
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PETITION TO SAVE THE UNITED METHODIST CHILDREN'S HOME (UMCH) OF THE NORTH GEORGIA CONFERENCE at 500 S. Columbia Drive just outside the City of Decatur in Dekalb County, GA 30030.
On Jan. 17, 2017, the Board of Trustees voted to sell the UMCH property which has been located at 500 S. Columbia Drive, Decatur, GA since 1873. Alumni and neighbors are informing others about the importance of this historically significant and ecologically rich property. The 77 acre property is home to historical buildings dating to the early 1900s, including Moore Chapel built in 1906. Renderings for the property include possibly "+600 homesites" on +77 acres of old growth trees, a pond and stream that empties into the Shoal Creek water in unincorporated Dekalb County. There are also graves on the property, including the grave of Rev. Jesse Boring whose vision began the Home. The proposed development borders S. Columbia Drive to the south, Katie Kerr Drive to the east and Derrydown Way to the north.
The United Methodist Children’s Home was established in 1871 to care for children orphaned during the Civil War. Originally called the Methodist Orphans’ Home and located in Norcross, the Home moved in 1873 to the present location in Decatur.
There are 3 mixed use developments that have been approved-800 block of Columbia Drive, Sam's Crossing and Talley Street-all either bordering or very close to the campus. Having another large development in this area will be a strain on natural resources and impact the community in a great way. It is hoped that community concerns will be heard and a good plan will be decided that will honor the history of this place and the concerns of the community.
There are many concerns with selling the property and the proposed development as follows:
The Home has been a leader in serving the children and families of the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church for 145 years. The 2015 Strategic Plan has a goal of continuing Independent Living and Transitional Living for older foster youth, homeless family housing and foster care. Broadening the scope of services within north Georgia and increasing foster care to 500 youth are good goals. These goals can be accomplished without the sale of all the property. There is a way to honor the history of this place and save ecological resources on the property and also achieve these goals.
Some of the trees on this property may have existed long before the Civil War and in the mid 1800s. We know now that extreme weather will play a role in our immediate ecosystem. Continuing to remove our remaining large trees will only prove more expensive for taxpayers and municipalities alike, as they struggle to manage heavier stormwater events on a regular basis.
There are state waters on the property that must be protected by law with buffers. Beavers and other wildlife inhabit the area.
Atlanta has been losing more and more tree canopy to residential development. Fernbank Center is doing it's part. Fernbank Forest, purchased and preserved by Fernbank Museum’s founders nearly a century ago, is a 65-acre old-growth hardwood forest located within the museum’s Atlanta campus. It is one of the largest old-growth Piedmont forests in a major metropolitan area of the United States. The forest is home to a diverse ecosystem, a towering canopy--including trees up to 300 years old--and many champion trees. Fernbank Forest provides habitat to a diverse range of birds, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Because many species of protected migratory birds also thrive within the forest, the Audubon Society has recognized it as an Important Birding Area.
This property is located in unincorporated Dekalb County and currently zoned OI (Office and Institutional). A school, museum, park or event center could be designed on the site which could preserve some the historic buildings and resources of this property.
This property is important to the citizens of Decatur and Dekalb County, the state of Georgia, the history of child welfare services in Georgia and the United Methodist Church.
Please sign this petition and urge the agency Board of Trustees and our local officials and Dekalb's CEO Michael Thurmond to save this historic property for Dekalb County, Decatur, the United Methodist Church and Georgia and enforce and revise the Dekalb County tree protection ordinance and protect our area's incredibly diversified urban forests.
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