Thank you to Jennifer Gibson and Beth McKibben for organizing a Trick or Treat gathering at the Verner/Buchanan mini park. It was great to see the neighborhood children all dressed up and playing together.
Also, a BIG thank you goes out to Ron Horgan for organizing the pig roast on Sunday, Nov 10. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped pull of this event, including Patrick Brady for designing the flyers, Joel Iverson for the Monday Night Brewery craft beer, the use of Jim Martin’s yard and Fire Station 23 for stopping by.
Here are a few neighbors enjoying the evening.
By Jim Martin
October was another busy month in NPU-D. At the NPU-D meeting on October 22nd
, we finally dealt with the Georgia Steel rezoning that we had been deferring for over two years. The developer’s proposal for this site, which is behind the west pond at the Waterworks, is to build a 5-story wood-frame apartment complex with a concrete parking deck similar to those that have been popping up throughout our area. When he originally proposed this, we asked for a commitment from either the developer or the city that the intersection of Huff and Howell Mill be improved to relieve the traffic congestion on Huff. The developer’s contra proposal at that time was that he would lobby the city to get this done. After two years of this lobbying, nothing was done or planned. The developer’s new proposal was to continue his lobbying efforts while constructing a development that would add to the existing congestion. 19 of those present at the meeting thought that this was a splendid idea and voted to endorse the rezoning. I alone disagreed with that assessment. The last time that I was the lone dissenter on a rezoning proposal in Blandtown was in 2007 when Steve Brock rezoned more than 40 acres just to the west of this site. That property is now vacant, foreclosed, and undeveloped with its present PDMU zoning being the most significant impediment to its redevelopment. In November, we will hear a rezoning proposal to unwind the 2007 PDMU zoning on half of that property in order to finally permit its development. Hopefully, I will not be the lone supporter of that proposal.
In light of the Georgia Steel rezoning moving ahead, there have been renewed discussions with the city regarding improvements to Huff Road. Whether or not these amount to any real action remains to be seen. On October 9th
, I emailed
Michele Wynn at DPW regarding this. More recently, Jerry Carnes, WXIA’s Commuter Dude, has shown an interest in this. He is currently working on a story about Huff Road and is trying to elicit a statement of some kind from the Mayor’s office. Hopefully we will be able to keep this matter in the forefront of discussions, even without any debate over the Georgia Steel rezoning.
We had three other business items on our October NPU-D agenda. One was a rezoning on Carroll Drive from industrial to single-family residential. We deferred this even though everyone seemed to be conceptually in favor of it because the property needs to be subdivided as well as rezoned. It should be easier for the current owner to do the subdivision prior to the rezoning because the newly created lots may be a few inches short of conforming to the requirements of the new R4A zoning. Thus our deferral was to permit time for the subdivision. We also deferred a zoning variance case on Springer Street in Underwood Hills across the street from the park. Here the applicant was seeking to reduce the required side yard to near zero in order to add a second floor to an older home that had been built up to the property line. For reasons that were not clear, the applicant was on bad terms with the affected neighbor and the two of them had been unable to reach mutually agreeable conditions for their shared property line during and after the proposed construction. In this case our deferral was to give them a chance to reach some sort of agreement. Given the bad feelings between them, it is not clear whether this is going to occur, but we shall see in November. Our only other business matter was a liquor license for Prestige Wines in Underwood Hills. This was a bit odd in that they already had a license and were not planning an expansion, but needed a new license in order to do business under two different names out of the same location following a merger. We unanimously endorsed this. Although we were disappointed to hear that they are would not be selling wine to the public as they are strictly a wholesaler.
We will have a few business items slated for the November NPU-D agenda. One of these will be the cancellation of our December meeting, which would otherwise occur on Christmas Eve. Another will be the election of NPU-D officers for 2014. There should be a hard fought competition for the office of Chairperson after my narrow victory last year. The November business item that will be of the most interest to Berkeley Park folks is a transitional yard variance application by Jimmy Johns restaurant for the empty lot next to the auto parts store on Howell Mill. In August, I reported on their Beltline SAP application for this site, but I neglected to report the promised follow-up with my SAP comments
in September. The site plans
that they submitted for the SAP, which appear to be identical to those that accompanied the variance application. Their present application is a request to reduce the required 20-foot transitional yard to 5 feet so that they can have a bigger parking lot. Their only justification for this is that the bigger parking lot and a drive-through window that it will accommodate will be good for their business. That is not sufficient rationale for a zoning variance, so I can see no reason why we would endorse it, particularly given that it amounts to an elimination of the trees screening the business from adjoining residences. This is an accommodation that we have not given to any other business in the area including more desirable neighbors like Flip restaurant where the screening trees were preserved. Two other things to keep in mind regarding this are (1) that the variance would run with the site and the use rather than the business so it would also invite less neighborly fast food tenants like McDonalds to the site. And (2) that the variance would eliminate the transitional yard between the parking lot and the unused alley easement. This could allow the tenant or owner to make a claim to access through Jacob Burton’s driveway in much the same way that Barry and Ronnie Sermons have been able to access their garage through an alley easement. Absent the variance, the transitional yard would preclude any such use. This variance will also be a business item on the November 19th BPNA meeting agenda.
On November 5th
(election day) the appeal of the BZA decision regarding the QT parking exception was heard in Fulton County Superior Court by judge Tom Campbell. A draft
of the hearing brief for our side of this case. Essentially, we made four assertions. The first was that the BZA did not have the specific authority to grant a parking increase. This was one that our lawyer, Brian, thought up. It is a nerdy/legal-technical sort of argument. The second was that the BZA provided no relevant legal justification for its decision. The third was that no evidence was introduced to support the parking exception. This is closely related to the second and seems to be our strongest point since that BZA decided the matter based on a parking generation report that is clearly irrelevant to the legal requirements for granting an exception. Our fourth argument was that the BZA abused its authority by granting an exception for more parking spaces than the applicant had agreed were sufficient. The city’s contra arguments amounted to an assertion that it is impossible to appeal a BZA decision, firstly because the nature of the appeal is not sufficiently specified in the city code (i.e. they were arguing that their laws were too vague) and secondly because the fact that the hearing took place at all means that there must have been evidence introduced that justified the decision. Oddly, in his oral arguments, the city’s attorney, Lem Ward, seemed to be accepting our assertion that the exception had to be justified by a hardship. This was something that both the applicant and the BZA had previously denied. Judge Campbell took this matter under advisement and will render his decision later. Brian said that this was the best outcome that we could hope for because it means that the judge will read through the extensive supporting information that we submitted before deciding the case.
At the end of October, I received notification from the city that we have been awarded another grant for our beautification project. The application for this grant is linked from the October BPNA newsletter. With this grant we will be able to buy and install three more benches. The specific locations for these will be decided at a special meeting of the beautification committee. There should be a second round of grants under the same program later this year. I plan to apply for a grant for two more benches at that time. On November 16th
the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board will be awarding our beautification committee chairperson, Margaret Camac, a community service award for her fine work on this project.
In October, we finally made some progress on our long-delayed sidewalk project. The Department of Public Works (DPW) provided us with estimates for the construction of sidewalk segments along Verner and Tallulah that were reasonable and were not contingent on being part of a much larger sidewalk project. This was a huge step in the right direction from their previous assertion that they would not be able to do anything for less than about $1million. We can thank our current and future city council representatives, Yolanda Adrean and Felicia Moore, for bringing DPW back to reality on this matter. Yolanda was also able to confirm the current availability of $47,700 in leftover Howell Mill bond funds to pay for the proposed sidewalks. When we discussed the matter with DPW in September, folks said that this money had probably been expended elsewhere in the city. The current DPW estimates are about 30% higher than the work could be privately contracted for, so presumably the cost will come down when the work is actually done or some lucky city contractor will line his pockets with the difference. Regardless of this, there is more than enough bond money to pay for all of the sidewalks that are currently proposed.
In light of our recent progress on the sidewalk project, it is appropriate that we begin discussions regarding the use of the unexpended money pledged by Selig. The traffic study is completed, the beautification project has expended its entire budget (although the project itself is ongoing), and the sidewalk project can be accomplished without Selig money unless it is expanded beyond the scope of the current DPW proposal. This should leave about $38,000 for either more sidewalks or for other projects on our original priority list, which is outlined in the April 2011 BPNA newsletter. Ordered by priority, the next two potentially doable projects on that list would be a master plan and a tree planting project. We will discuss our next steps with regard to all this at the November BPNA meeting.
I propose that we form a master planning committee to determine the feasibility and required budget for that effort and delegate the tree planting project to the beautification committee as these two activities are clearly compatible and that committee already exists.
There were a few news stories in October regarding Waterworks Park and the possibility of taking down some of the fences there next year. These are linked from the Waterworks Park Facebook page
. Seeing these stories reminded me that we had a letter writing campaign to the mayor on this issue in 2011. At that time I wrote him a letter
on behalf of NPU-D. Terry Horgan, who was our president at that time, also wrote a letter which is linked from the February 2011
Next NPU-D meeting:
Tuesday, November 26, 7:30 pm
Agape Center, 2351 Bolton Road, NW
ALL NPU RESIDENTS WELCOME!
Monthly Meeting Minutes
By Hollie Meyer
Meeting called to order my Will Jungman
October Pig Roast
- Will be held Sunday, Nov 10, starting at 2 p.m. at the Buchanan Mini Park (Corner of Buchanan and Verner)
- Ron Horgan will roast the pig in Jim Martin’s yard
- Movie night in Jim Martin’s backyard Saturday, Nov 8. More information to be announced.
- Jim Martin has filed a suit against the ruling of the Quick Trip variance. Should be in the court system this spring.
- Looking to schedule a meeting with the planning office, Felicia’s office and legislation on how to move forward
- Need to get a hold of the property owners, get names and dates from the city
- Vote to “Approve to spend up to $150 for senior dinner to cover costs.” Will motioned, Dwight seconded. 5 board members yes, 0 no
- Due to the Wagoner’s moving, we are in need of a new traffic committee chairperson
- If interested, contact Will
Bond Money from the City
- As mentioned in Jim Martin’s NPU meeting minutes, the bond money that was promised to the neighborhood seems to have been repurposed within the city. Jim will try to lobby for those funds back with a specific use in mind. Will motioned that the “funds from the bond money be used to support the sidewalks for the neighborhood”. Dwight seconded. 8 yes, 0 no
- Look to invite the Watershed Commissioner to a BPNA meeting. Will will send potential dates and agenda items to Felicia for her office to setup the meeting. Neighboring neighborhoods will be invited.
By Margaret Camac
Hello Neighbors - What fun it was on Halloween to see our neighborhood children gathering at the Verner mini park before heading out for Trick and Treating. Thanks to the parents who organized this event.
Good news- Jim Martin has acquired three more benches for our neighborhood. The Beautification Committee would therefore like to reconvene to plan possible locations sites and landscaping ideas to best enhance these acquisitions. For those neighbors interested in input and serving on the Beautification Committee, we plan to have a dinner meeting after our next BPNA meeting on the 19th either at Mama Niki's or Azios. We will also discuss the completion of the Forrest Street mini park.
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