I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the November and December meetings were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No new neighborhoods asked to be admitted to BCN.
IV. Special Guest Speakers
Roxanne Giles Smith, President, Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy
Roxanne Smith was one of the cofounders of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy. Roxanne first
briefed BCN about the Conservancy’s master plan effort about two years ago. She returned this month
to outline their draft master plan. She was accompanied in making the presentation by Marty Elgison.
The study encompassed the park area along Peachtree Creek west of Northside Drive as well as the
Bobby Jones Golf Course and Bitsy Grant Tennis Center on the east side. The Conservancy raised over
$100,000, $75,000 of which went to the master planning effort. The plan will be presented to the public
on January 16 – the presentation to BCN was a preview.The master planning effort involved all six surrounding neighborhoods and public workshops. The plans involved the integration of the park with new sidewalks on both sides of Northside Drive and with the Atlanta Beltline Trail and to the Tanyard Creek Trail to the south and east of the park. The project’s goals were as follows:
- Renovate Bobby Jones Clubhouse
- Revitalize Memorial Park
- Incorporate effort with current renovations at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center
- Restore Peachtree & Tanyard Creeks along with Providing Flood Mitigation
- Renovate Bobby Jones Golf Course
- Enhance Neighborhood Connectivity
Because of the changes in accessibility, the plan proposes relocation of the entrance for the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and providing connectivity under Northside Drive, below right. They also propose to move the golf course clubhouse to a new structure to be shared with the tennis center. Raising the Northside Drive bridge creates an uninterrupted flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic along Woodward Way. The bridge also raises Northside Drive enough to greatly reduce the risk of flooding in the event of a major rainfall. Renovated Bobby Jones Golf Course, 18-hole alternative. Renovated Bobby Jones Golf Course, reversible 9-hole alternative. A parking deck would be created near Northside Drive and the tennis center would be relocated from the floodplain to the top of the parking deck, as shown above. Two configurations of the renovated Bobby Jones Golf Course are under consideration, as shown below. Note the new locations of the tennis center (lower left) and clubhouse (middle left) in each option. The Conservancy has hired an executive director and plans to pursue implementation of the draft plan in phases. The draft plan will be submitted to the City for review and approval.
James E. Shelby, Commissioner of Planning and Community Development
Commissioner Shelby outlined the structure of his department, which includes three offices: Planning (planning, transportation planning, brownfields, rezoning), Housing (affordable housing), and Buildings (building permits, inspection, arborists). Shelby outlined the following projects in the Office of Planning: Bike Share outlined a $2.6 million bike share program which will include 26 projects. The goal is to increase bicycling by 2.2% by 2016. They hope to let a contract this summer which will enable citizens and tourists to pick up one of 136 bicycles from 57 stations to make short trips. Carefully selected advertisements will fund the cost of the contract.
New Zoning Ordinance:
The zoning ordinance has not been updated since 1985. His department plans to revamp the entire ordinance. They plan to hire a firm to create a “forensic” of our zoning ordinance as compared to the ordinances in place in other cities. This will be the basis for an RFP to select a company to create a new zoning ordinance for the city starting this summer. He believes that the number of ordinances being currently processed by the city indicates that the zoning ordinance is broken. He plans to secure public input during the process but the format of the input solicitation has not yet been defined. $100,000 NPU Grant A grant of $100,000 has been made to let NPUs fund beautification projects and leadership programs. He said, “the only requirement is that you have to go through your NPU.”
For the Office of Housing, Shelby outlined the following:
Housing Inventory Strategy Plan:
The plan has inventoried 146,000 parcels. He said a consulting firm surveyed every house in the city that they could reach. They took pictures of each one and recorded the condition of the housing and sidewalks. This information will be provided to developers. They identified “Tipping Point Neighborhoods”, neighborhoods which, with a little help, can be stabilized. The information is on-line. He said, “All of the raw data is there.” Information about the Strategic Community Investment (SCI) Report is on-line at http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=908. The report’s Executive Summary is at http://www.atlantaga.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=10663 and the full report is at http://ditweb.atlantaga.gov/sci/sci7.pdf. Questions about the report should be directed to Rodney Milton, the liaison on the project – call Shelby’s office (404-330-6037) to be transferred to Melton.
For the Office of Building, Shelbe had the following observations. Office of Building now an “enterprise fund” Shelby also commented about the building permit process. The Office of Building is now an “enterprise fund”; that is that “every dollar we collect now goes into an enterprise fund and does not go into the general fund. He said it allows them to improve their technology and staffing. He said under their new process, they review the adequacy of drawings when they are first submitted and are able to reject them immediately rather than causing unnecessary review delays.
Homeowners Day Coming:
He said they plan to have a “Homeowners Day”, perhaps every Friday, so a homeowner can come in and get a permit without having to contend with all of the developers and expediters. He said homeowners often have very simple application, which can be expedited. In responding to questions, Shelby first commented on SPI-12. He said a Development Review Committee handles that. Gordon Certain commented that, About 30% of the population of my [North Buckhead] neighborhood is inside SPI-12 but none of the zoning applications are routed to my neighborhood. They go to a special board that Andrea [Bennett], NPU Chair, sits on. But, it’s our neighborhood. Part of what I would like to explore is what is the role of neighborhoods for looking out for development within their neighborhood boundaries as recognized by the city? Is that role going to be maintained by the city or strengthened or is it going to be reduced?” Shelby answered “that any time there is a rezoning in your community, it goes to the NPU process. Then the community has an opportunity to weigh in on it. The DRC is a little different because the SPIs are special districts and there are special guidelines for those districts. And quite frankly, there is a whole litany of criteria that we use in order to make decisions about the design. And [looking to Andrea Bennett], you’re one the committee?” Andrea affirmed. [In addition to being NPU-B Chair, Andrea is also a board member of the North Buckhead Civic Association and is vice chair of its Land Use and Zoning Committee.] “And I think your committee is made up of some people from my staff, investors…” Andrea: ”We don’t have any investors.” Shelby, “Not investors; developers.” Andrea: “Property owners. Council representatives.” Walda Lavroff (North Buckhead’s Land Use and Zoning Committee Chair): “And Livable Buckhead, too. It’s the convener.” Andrea: “Livable Buckhead and CID.” Shelby, “So here’s a criteria that they use, not something they make up themselves, a criteria that they have to follow.” Andrea: “We don’t rezone. We determine if they comply [with the zoning].” Gordon: “I understand. But in all the other zoning applications, variances, that happen within our neighborhood come to our neighborhood for Walda’s committee to look at and for our neighborhood to comment on it before it goes to the NPU.” Andrea: “It’s the same. It still does.” Walda: “But when it goes to the SPI [meaning goes to the DRC], the process is different.” Shelby: “Because the zoning has already been established. The only thing we are looking at this point in time is design. The [inintelligible]. How many windows it will have. That’s the only thing that they’re looking at. Hey are not looking at whether it’s going to be 12 feet from the property line. Those issues have already been resolved. They’ve already met the criteria. The only criteria here is that they’re looking at the design.” Andrea: “The zoning was back in 1996.” Unknown voice: “There are no variances and zoning changes, so you don’t see them.” Andrea: “Right.” [See Yolanda Adrean’s comments about SPI DRCs later in this section.]
Tom Gordon: “That is not always true. A permit can be let for a building, this happened in our neighborhood – 6 unit condominium, two bedrooms each, builder then started construction and found out there were some sewer lines or something underneath the property. He got an emergency modification – never went through the neighborhood; never went through the NPU. So instead of having adequate parking for these condominiums, the builder then told the people they can just park on the street – [but] the street has restricted parking. But then nobody at the city cared because it went totally by the neighborhood and we were not consulted one iota. We could have told them it would not work.” Shelby: “So let me try to address that. I would have to look at the details to respond. I can tell you that if a piece of property is zoned for residential or zoned for commercial and it’s not in the SPI, it’s not going to come before any committee, because that property owner has that right. The zoning has already been dictated for him. … For example, in that case it was already rezoned…” Tom: “The zoning was appropriate. The parking was inadequate.” Shelby: “Well, that’s a big difference.” Tom: “The waiver was granted without consultation with anybody.” Shelby: “You’ll have to tell me about it.” Tom: “The developers have learned how to manipulate the emergency modification process. We firmly believe this guy knew exactly what he was dealing with and he wasn’t going to get it from the neighborhood so he went ahead with his plans and then quickly filed for an emergency modification of his building permit and built this thing that causes interesting parking issues.” Shelby: “I am not familiar with that term
‘emergency modification’. I’d like to talk to you about that.” A questioner asked how many apartments and condos units are approved to be built in Buckhead? Shelby said that off hand, he couldn’t say but that beginning the middle of last year the majority of applications they got were for apartment complexes and not condominiums. Walda asked about Charletta Wilson Jacks, wondering what she was responsible for these days. Shelby responded that Charletta, as Director of the Office of Planning, was responsible for: transportation, land use planning, zoning, urban design, the brownfield program, comprehensive development plan, and the CIP – “she has her hands full”. Gordon Certain asked what the differences were between the transportation responsibilities of his department and the Department of Public Works. Shelby said they do transportation planning and Public Works implements. He added that in the case of the bike project, they are helping Public Works with implementation. City Council member Yolanda Adrean commented to Shelby and the BCN about the SPI DRC role. Yolanda is leading the Council’s Zoning Committee this year. She said, ”I just want to make one remark about the DRC issue. They are an advisory group and I have talked to some of the people who were members who are not in this room and reminded them in pretty strong language that they are an advisory group and want you to know that as a constituent that you always have your council member. And there have been situations where I haven’t been on the same page. But the rubber hits the road when to goes to Council. So just know that you have options as a community.” Gordon: “But it’s a lot easier when you are in at the beginning of the process.” Yolanda: “Well, you’re right about that. And how ‘bout, is it possible as in Gordon’s area, can that community have a master plan or does the SPI12 kick that out? Can you have both?” Shelby, “The SPI acts like an overlay district, anyway. It’s totally defined what goes on in that area.” He paused, and then added: “You know, I’ve been in this business for a long, long time and I am – I’ve been in Atlanta now for about nine years – I am not a very big fan of that, to be honest with you. But it was in place when I got here. A lot of people tend to think that it’s a great idea. So if the citizens think it is a great idea, I think it’s a great idea. However, I’m just not a very big fan of SPIs. But, we have a lot of those and hopefully when we redo our zoning ordinance, we’re going to look at that very carefully.” Yolanda: “It’s standards and it’s advisory. [pause] If you are involved in the front end it is helpful.” Gordon: “It is ‘advisory’ but it’s different.” Yolanda, “I know it’s different. When I was dealing with the Regents Bank, I felt like I was dealing with Jello.. Every time I had a decision, it went back… It was so frustrating. And I raised my voice a number of times on that.” Shelby, “Council member, you know the SPI really did take in public comments when it was created. It took in public comments.” Gordon: “But, there weren’t public hearings, for us.” Shelby: “Oh, yes, for SPIs there were plenty of them. There were a lot of them, but… [pause] Let me say this: if there’s an issue you have with one of the SPIs that the DRC did not answer for you, you can always call me and we can sit down and talk about it. Again, it’s just advisory. And it’s based on public input and public comment that all went into that SPI. And knowing the ones in Buckhead, I’m telling you, we went through a lot of meetings and hearings on those.”
V. Committee and Liaison Updates
- Tom Tidwell said that Bob Schneider’s travel schedule would keep him from chairing that committee. Hopefully he can keep up the web site. So we need a volunteer for Communications. Tom said he is really interested in getting someone to help get us a Facebook page.
- Tom Tidwell said the new BOE gets sworn in on Monday. He invited four of them to speak at the February BCN meeting (which was not held due to weather).
- Did not meet. No report.
- Tom thought it was really important to get someone active in membership. No one is assigned now.
- Gordon Certain had no report.
- Barbara Kennedy had no report.
Transportation, Development and Infrastructure
- Ron Grunwald had no report.
VI. Committee Assignments
Chair Tidwell said he planned to send an email to BCN representatives to see if they were interested in
VII. Election of Vice-chairman
Tom Tidwell noted that Jim King is currently the vice-chair. He said that Jim did it on a temporary basis, pending Ron Grunwald’s availability. Tom said Ron is available. Ron was nominated and unanimously elected Vice-chairman.
VIII. Approval of Mission Statement
Tom Tidwell had previously discussed means of making BCN more influential. He proposed a mission statement which was reported in the December minutes. Tom thought we should have a brochure which included our mission statement and describing who we represent. We have 15,000 households and 78,000 residents. We can go to newly elected representatives and say, look at this voting block – you need to listen to us. Tom asked for a motion to adopt the mission statement, which was given and seconded. The mission statement, below, was adopted unanimously.
MISSION STATEMENT FOR BUCKHEAD COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOODS:
BCN’s mission is to provide a more unified and stronger voice to address and protect the common interests and quality of life issues shared by all of the individual Buckhead neighborhoods, such as education, transportation, traffic, community development, and government services; and to enhance our neighborhoods’ influence in the larger arena of local government politics and funding. By providing an independent forum for homeowners and neighborhoods to share common concerns and propose solutions for community betterment, BCN hopes to create an effective vehicle for making headway on larger Buckhead-wide issues. BCN will thus empower our neighborhoods to address matters in a more unified and influential manner that will get positive results.
IX. Community Concerns/New Business
John Schaffner said there will be an public open house on January 30 at the Buckhead Theater regarding the Peachtree Road projects sponsored by the Buckhead CID. (The meeting was cancelled due to weather and was conducted in February.) Gordon Certain reminded the board that in the December meeting, John Schaffner recommended BCN attend some Buckhead Business Association meetings. The BBA’s Annual Luncheon is January 16. Gordon suggested we try to buy a table for BCN. A table for 10 costs $765. Tom proposed BCN subsidize attendees. Tom asked that we coordinate plans via email.
XI. Next Meeting – February 13, 2014 (APS Board members – Cancelled due to weather)
March 13, 2014 (Candidates for new Fulton 3rd district)
April 10, 2014 (Ed Lindsey and Greg Chevalier)