By William Jungman
Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending TransportationCamp South, a transportation and urban planning focused "un-conference" sponsored, among others, by the Georgia Tech Urban Transportation Information Lab. It was an exciting chance to meet and learn from fellow Atlantans engaged in building a better city at all levels: politicians, grad students, city planners, civic organization board members, and simply local citizens like me. It seems that the demise of TSPLOST began to spur new thinking about how Atlanta should move forward to confront transportation issues over the coming decades. For me, TransportationCamp was a positive harbinger of things to come.
For instance, this past fall, MARTA finally opened its real-time data so that 3rd party developers can leverage open source software (such as that used for the NYC Metro) to build apps that improve the customer experience. For cyclists, the Atlanta Regional Commission and Tech have developed a Smartphone app, Cycle Atlanta
that is tracking bike trips to improve bike routes. Just last week, Mayor Reed announced funding for bike facility improvements. For our own neighborhood and the Westside, I'm interested to see how we might use open source planning software such as Open Plans
to improve our part of town through community input.
A trend towards better data, improved transparency, and increased local input is one that I believe will benefit our neighborhood, as we have a history of being active and involved. My ask of all of you is that you be observant and offer your suggestions to me and the other board members. We can't tackle every issue ourselves, but we can help provide the resources and organization to continue the gradual work of maintaining and improving upon our neighborhood and the Westside Atlanta community.
By Jim Martin
NPU-D meeting was not particularly eventful. We had three zoning cases on our agenda, but two of these were deferred. Our first deferral was for the old Georgia Steel site next to the waterworks. We have been deferring this since February of last year and are expecting to defer it at least until this summer according to the attorney representing the applicants. I have come to believe that the applicants are not really serious about this site and are protracting the rezoning process as a way to preserve an option to buy the property as their original contract stipulated rezoning as a condition of purchase. Our other deferral was for a special use permit for a biosolids processing facility next to the sewage treatment plant on Marietta Blvd, which was reported on in the December newsletter. We had already deferred this once at November meeting. Folks from the surrounding community have been meeting with the applicants since then. It is currently looking like we will be voting on a conditional approval for this permit at our February 26th
The one zoning case that we did consider was for the old Salvation Army site at the corner of Howell Mill and Antone St. This application was described in the January newsletter and approved at the January BPNA meeting with mine as the only dissenting vote. Here the new owner of the property, our neighbor Chandler, was requesting that the eastern portion of the site be rezoned from R-4A (single-family residential) to C-1 (commercial) for the construction of a commercial building that will house one or two unidentified tenants. The discussion at the NPU meeting went very much like the discussion at the BPNA meeting and focused on the nature of the proposed redevelopment rather than the nature of the zoning request. As BPNA had the week before, NPU-D approved the rezoning without any conditions by a vote of 20 to 1, with mine being the only dissenting opinion once again.
Our only other business item in January was a change of ownership application for a beer and wine license at the Shell station on Howell Mill Rd just south of the freeway. This site is in Underwood Hills. There was some confusion in the dealings between the applicant, Mr. Solani, and the Underwood Hills Neighborhood Association (UHNA) prior to the meeting. UHNA had apparently requested and expected that Mr. Solani would defer his application for consideration in February, but he did not wish to delay the issuance of his license by doing this. There were a few issues that they requested him to address and he agreed to. We approved his application by a vote of 23 to 0 on the condition of his agreement on those matters. The first of them was to install LED cut-off lighting to reduce light spillage into the back yards of the homes along the east side of Ridgeway Ave. The second was to plant trees along the sidewalk between the curb cuts on Howell Mill Road. The number and locations of these trees was not specified.
In addition to our business items, we had an interesting presentation regarding traffic problems along Howell Mill Rd from Ricky White, who is our liaison with the Department of Public Works (DPW). They have apparently been studying this problem and have now decided that there is nothing that can be done to improve it with signal light timing because the road is “saturated” with traffic. This, ironically, was exactly what we told them when they were contemplating their eventual endorsement of the light that is now installed at the Kroger driveway. Although DPW was apparently unaware of it, the demand function on that light has recently been malfunctioning. When I have observed it in the evening while walking my dogs, it has shown twice as much green time to the Kroger driveway (without any westbound traffic) as it has shown to Howell Mill Rd (with substantial north/south traffic). I do not know whether this problem is replicated during peak hours, but it might offer a partial explanation for the unusually long northbound queues that on Howell Mill in the evening and afternoon. At least, we can all now feel confident that none of the Kroger clientele is being unnecessarily inconvenienced by this debacle.
In January, the folks from QuikTrip decided to apply for a special administrative permit (SAP) to build the gas station that they want on Howell Mill between Defoors and Chattahoochee. They are required to do this because the site is inside the Beltline zoning overlay. Although they had previously asserted that they could easily win approval of their plan by conforming to the overlay requirements, they submitted a plan with their application that was very far from conforming to these requirements and is virtually unaltered from the plan that we rejected at NPU-D in November. It is not clear why they would have proceeded with this plan as, absent a level of government corruption and/or incompetence far beyond anything I have ever seen in Atlanta, nothing similar to this plan is likely to be approved. The QuikTrip folks were obviously aware of this. They may either be under the false impression that this is some sort of negotiation in which they are making a low-ball opening offer. Or they may be planning to throw in the towel altogether and require some sort of documentation of their inability to obtain zoning approval in order to escape their contract for the property. Or they may be aware of corruption and incompetence that that I have yet to observe. In accordance with the requirements of the SAP review process, I submitted comments regarding this application to the planning bureau. Those comments are linked here
Several people have asked about the ongoing construction behind Braxton Automotive (the first lot fronting the south side of Chattahoochee to the west of Howell Mill). This is a self-storage facility that we granted a parking exception for in March 2008. I am not sure why it has taken them so long to begin construction. The project that was originally proposed is described in the February
2008 BPNA newsletters. The construction would need to conform pretty closely to that description as a new SAP would be required if it did not and none has been applied for.
On January 10th
, I traded email with Mark Renier, the developer of the Advance auto parts store at the corner of Holmes and Howell Mill, regarding the signage on this building. The signs plastered over the windows are a violation of both the city’s sign ordinance and the Beltline overlay requirements, which should have prevented the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the building (if the city actually did the inspections that it claims to). Mr Renier indicated that he would take action on this matter in mid January, but no action seems to have been taken yet. Since the required action (peeling stickers off of windows) requires only a few minutes of labor, it would appear that he intends to maintain the illegal signage until Advance is cited by the city for their zoning violations.
The BPNA beautification project continued to progress in January. The first of the two grants from the city that we applied for to replace the security fence at the senior center ($3,700) was approved. We have not heard back about the second grant application yet. Two more of the new benches were installed along Bellemeade Ave – in front of the Senior Center and the Sizemore building. One bench remains to be installed – at the bus stop by the Ace Hardware store. The curbing at the mini-park on Verner St was replaced with granite salvaged from around the trees on Holmes Street last fall and the asphalt is currently being removed for the new planting beds. The 4 new BPNA signs are finished. They are at Andrew’s shop. The six new trash cans and three new dog-poop-bag dispensers are awaiting installation, which should occur in February. Thanks for assistance with the January project activities are owed to Barry Camac, Andrew Crawford, Andy Hurd, and Jacob Burton. Anyone who would like to help with the ongoing beautification projects should contact our Beautification Chairperson, Margaret Camac.
The department of public works (DPW) is maintaining silence with regard to our sidewalk project. Perhaps they are afraid that sidewalks might actually get built, which would apparently (and ironically) be anathema to them. In an amusing side note to this, our council representatives Yolanda Adrean (current) and Felicia Moore (future) were the guest speakers at the January 16th
NCA meeting where they explained that sidewalks were not getting built in Atlanta because there was not enough money to do this due to the overwhelming rejection of the TSPLOST last fall. I pointed out that new sidewalks had not been built in Berkeley Park (despite ample funds) because DPW seemed willing to expend our precious tax money to prevent them. Neither of our representatives seemed to appreciate the humor in this contradiction between the DPW’s public pronouncements and its actions. They did observe that the problem was “complicated” in ways that they did not specify.
At February’s BPNA and NPU-D meetings we will be considering a change-of-agent application for Walmart’s liquor license. This will offer us an opportunity to complain to the Walmart folks about some of their actions or lack of actions that have been affecting our community. In particular their failure to retrieve their abandoned shopping carts is something that we may want them to address in exchange for our endorsement.
Next NPU-D meeting:
Tuesday, February 26, 7:30 pm
Agape Center, 2351 Bolton Road, NW
ALL NPU RESIDENTS WELCOME!
Monthly Meeting Minutes
By Hollie Meyer
January 15, 2013 — Senior Center Board Room
1. Meeting called to order my Will Jungman
2. Will gave an update on the BP and Underwood Hills Neighborhood Commercial Zoning. The BP committee has met to work on drafting zoning regulations. Boundaries of the zone haven’t been finalized; the zone is expected to encompass the half-mile of Howell Mill rd from approximately the Waterworks to the Shell Station south of I-75. Underwood Hills’ committee will need to review BP changes and hopefully move on to the next approval step.
3. Chandler McCormack has purchased the land at 1583 Howell Mill Rd and is seeking rezoning for a portion of the land. Currently, the back of the lot is zoned R-4a (single family residential) and would like to match the rest of the property as C-1. The plans for this site include the potential for three small businesses.
Vote: All in favor of changing the zoning from R-4a to C-1; 12 yes, 1 no
4. Traffic study update – Deborah Wagoner is currently awaiting response from city officials regarding the viability of proposed traffic calming improvements
5. Will has called public works on fixing or replacing various signs around the neighborhood. If members of the community see down signs, please report them to the city.
6. BPNA beautification update – Margaret Camac reported that several of the benches had been installed around the neighborhood. The committee hopes to install the remaining trash receptacles and planting of flowers and bushes, in the next couple of months.
7. Jim Martin gave an update on the grants that were submitted. He hopes to hear back on the NPU by the end of the month and hopefully the Love Your Block, shortly after. Funds would be used to update the wire fence next to the Senior Center along Bellemeade Ave.
8. Reminder to all to pay 2013 BPNA annual dues. Individual Member $20; Senior Member $5; Business $50.
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