by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Planning Committee
Tomorrow night (Monday, November 16th), our local Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU-F) will meet at the Virginia-Highland Church opposite Inman Middle School for a vote on a proposed rezoning off Cheshire Bridge road in the neighborhood of Lindridge/Martin Manor (LMM). The vote will be held between 8:00 and 8:30 PM. (Try to get there at 7:30 to sign in.) We ask that you read and consider what follows and oppose this rezoning. (Proof of residence – a government ID or local utility bill indicating your residence in Virginia-Highland – will be needed.)
WHY THIS MATTERS (Please bear with the alphabet soup.)
This is an attempt by Pulte Homes to rezone 17 single-family residences they have under contract on Elizabeth Ann Lane, a small cul-de-sac a block off the Cheshire Bridge/Sheridan intersection. If their rezoning request is successful, they will tear those houses down and build 89 townhomes.
It’s not in our neighborhood; how can it matter?
This proposal conflicts massively with NPU-F’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP), which each neighborhood creates and revises regularly. (NPU-F’s next major review will occur next year.)
Why does the CDP matter?
NPU-F’s CDP is the city’s master zoning and land use document. Our recently-passed Master Plan had no conflicts with the CDP. The CDP is approved by City Council and is part of the code. It is the basic document that guides the City of Atlanta Planning Department.
Rezonings do occur from time to time; they’re typically small changes with minimal impacts and implications. This rezoning is a very large and will have large impacts well beyond this street.
Major rezoning should be accompanied by serious independent planning studies that allow the larger community to understand and prepare for overall impacts and results.
Why is the rezoning bad for Lindridge/Martin Manor?
Pulte met with the NPU-F Zoning Committee a month ago and promised to return to the NPU-F Zoning Committee with a revised proposal that addressed many of the challenges that Lindridge/Martin Manor identified. Instead they did not return to the neighborhood and went forward in the process for approval of the existing plan. We were at the meeting and heard their promises. This was not anticipated by anyone, and it caught Lindridge/Martin Manor by surprise.
Lindridge/Martin Manor has several very specific arguments, and they are listed in their position paper below. The Virginia-Highland Civic Association has several other problems with the rezoning proposal.
Why is this rezoning problematic for VaHi?
This CDP has a macro component in its approach to planning issues. It examines overall land use, transportation (automobile, cycling, walking) impacts and alternatives, development trends, and impacts on nearby neighbors – i.e., it tries to be comprehensive. No plan solves all these problems, but a good plan anticipates and minimizes them.
If the homeowners are willing to sell, why shouldn’t this go forward?
It may be a good financial deal for those homeowners. That is their decision, and anyone can appreciate a slightly higher price. But the way this process is being handled sets a very bad precedent for this NPU and treats the CDP as a minor position paper rather than a major planning document.
We are not suggesting that major rezonings can never occur; we are saying that major rezonings require thorough independent planning evaluations that take into account the impacts to the entire neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Is there a recent parallel in the NPU?
Last fall NPU-F opposed a similar attempt to rezone the Oak Knoll Apartments, just south of Fat Matt’s on Piedmont. Our position then was identical; major conflicts with the CDP needed to be preceded by an independent study of large issues and should not occur merely for the convenience of the developer.
(In that instance, the NPUs recommendation of denial was followed by a compromise that was acceptable to the developer and was not inconsistent with the CDP.)
Has it applied recently in VaHi?
Yes, empathically yes. The CDP was the anchor of the recent initial discussions about the contemplated re-development at Monroe and 10th. At the landowners’ request, those discussions are on hold, but our approach there was exactly the same; large-scale changes should be accompanied by proportionate planning studies that anticipate and prepare for outcomes beyond the borders of the development. That future discussion will be very different if the CDP is casually changed in NPU-F. There is no precedent for that, and it is one of the most important reasons we need to recommend denial of this proposal.
Is this just blind opposition to higher-density development by a bunch of NIMBY neighbors?
It is not; higher density development is a part of the future for all. But it should occur in the places where neighborhoods and NPU have carefully studied and approved it. That’s because there are significant repercussions to consider with increased density. It should occur in places that have, or will have in the near future, the infrastructure to handle all that comes with density – increased traffic, stormwater concerns, implications for adjacent properties and more.
This is not an impractical or unreasonable expectation; it was the process used in the BeltLine Subarea 6 Plan.
We hope to see you at the VaHi Church tomorrow night, where this will be discussed (beginning at 7:30) and voted upon between 8 and 8:30 PM.
Lindridge Martin Manor (LMM) Neighborhood Association Board of Directors statement about Z-15-050 (Sheridan Road/Elizabeth Ann Lane Rezoning):
It has been a longstanding policy of LMMNA and NPU-F to preserve and protect the single family R-4 zoned properties in our neighborhoods (4 houses to an acre).
The upzoning from the existing R-4 zoning category to MR-3 that Pulte is requesting has never occurred in LMM and NPU-F.
Equally troubling, is the assemblage of an entire single family neighborhood. Allowing this to happen on Elizabeth Ann Lane/Sheridan Road creates enormous pressure on other areas in LMM, and NPU-F generally, and threatens the long term character and stability of our intown neighborhoods.
The City’s long term Comprehensive Development Plan calls for the Elizabeth Ann Lane area to remain at the current density ratio. It has never been contemplated that this area would be redeveloped at the higher densities proposed by Pulte.
The Sheridan Road/Cheshire Bridge Road area already suffers from extreme traffic congestion. The redevelopment proposed by Pulte will make a bad situation far worse.
Although Pulte categorizes its proposal as “single family” because the 89 townhomes are intended to be occupied by individual families, the density of their proposal moves it far outside of the existing single-family density.
The existing Sheridan Road/Elizabeth Ann Lane neighborhood consists of 18 homes. Under the existing zoning the required minimum lot size is 9,000 square feet with a minimum street frontage of 70’ wide and a density ratio of .50 (50%).
Pulte’s proposal is for a multi-family zoning category (MR3) that permits 89 townhomes and a density ratio of .696 (approximately 70%)
There is a reasonable alternative, consistent with the existing single family density that would permit the residents of Elizabeth Ann Lane/Sheridan Road to sell, allow redevelopment of the existing housing stock and preserve the current single-family density ratio of .50 but allow up to 35 homes, nearly double the existing number.
This alternative would involve a rezoning to the PD-H category is consistent with other redevelopments and rezonings along Sheridan Road in the last several years and preserves the existing density of the neighborhood.
LMM is the most vulnerable of the four NPU-F neighborhoods to this type of assemblage and upzoning. If this proposal succeeds, it will be extremely difficult in the long term for LMM to prevent similar proposals in other areas of the neighborhood. This will ultimately lead to the loss of significant parts of the Lindridge Martin Manor neighborhood.