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Published on June 10th, 2015 |

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Council president: time to study better representation for condos

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell told members of the Buckhead Condo Alliance June 4 that the time might be right for the city to reassess condominium owners’ representation in the city government process and also the operation of Neighborhood Planning Units.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell addresses the Buckhead Condo Alliance on June 4.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell addresses the Buckhead Condo Alliance on June 4.

Mitchell was responding to a remark from the audience that the reason the Condo Alliance was formed is because the condo owners had been told they could not form a vertical neighborhood along Peachtree Road, which would provide them a formal forum for input into city governance.

Mitchell was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of BCA, which was held in the auditorium of the Atlanta International School last Thursday night. Following his introductory remarks regarding the state of the city and City Council operations, he opened the floor for discussion.

Mitchell was told that the condo owners had been told by members of City Council that they could not form a neighborhood of condominium buildings that line both sides of Peachtree Road because neighborhoods in the city don’t cross major thoroughfares and don’t cross the lines of City Council districts.

The Condo Alliance member turnout for the June 4 meeting was sparse but the discussion was spirited.

The Condo Alliance member turnout for the June 4 meeting was sparse but the discussion was spirited. The group’s president Ben Howard listens at front right.

Faced with those restrictions, the condo buildings sought a different route to gain a voice in city issues, becoming a member of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, which welcomed the organization.

However, the BCA members still do not have a direct voice through the Neighborhood Planning Unit system, which is the city’s official forum for neighborhoods to voice their opinions and cast their votes on zoning issues and other items, such as liquor license issuance.

Mitchell asked why the condos could not become members of the neighborhoods in which they are located and gain a voice that way. He was told in many cases, the issues are different for residents in high-rise condo buildings and those in single-family homes.

Also, those attending the meeting pointed out that most neighborhood homeowners associations require members to also join and pay for security patrols, which the condo owners don’t need because their buildings have their own security.

Another factor is that a high-rise condo building with 203 or 300 residences, would only get one vote the way the homeowners associations by-laws are generally written, but each single-family

The president of the homeowners association at the Paramount condominiums discusses a point with Council President Ceasar Mitchell.

Rebecca King, the president of the homeowners association at the Paramount at Buckhead  condominiums discusses a point with Council President Ceasar Mitchell.

home would also get one vote at homeowner association meetings.

Garden Hills Civic Association past president Chris Sanders was attending the meeting and admitted that the security patrol issue and the number of votes per residence could be a problem for condo owners to join the neighborhood homeowners group.

However, he felt both the single-family homeowners and condo unit owners shared many civic issues and concerns and there could be ways to work out a relationship that would benefit both groups.

Council President Mitchell tells condo owners group the time may be right to review how to provide them more representation before city bodies.

Council President Mitchell tells condo owners group the time may be right to review how to provide them more representation before city bodies.

Rebecca King, the president of the HOA at the Paramount high-rise condominium building on Stratford Road in the commercial district of Buckhead, told Mitchell that all the new apartment and office building growth that has gone up around her building has made it impossible for the school bus to come down the street to the condo to pick up children for school.

She said the people in her building have had no say in the addition of these buildings, in what they look like, how many cars they are going to add to their street because they are not at the table when these issues are being discussed. They have no representation.

Mitchell listened intently to what those attending the meeting had to say and suggested it might be time for the city to revisit the situation—considering the number of condo buildings that have been added in the city and the new ones likely to come in the future.

“You are an important part of the city fabric,” Mitchell told the group. “Your issues are different and your service needs are very different. It is helpful to us for you to come to us with you issues and needs.”

Mitchell had no immediate solutions to how condo owners get a clearer path to representation before the city for their issues and needs, but he said he did think it was time to review the situation and “think outside the box to find 21st century solution to the situation.”

He also told the group that there are some factions in the city that question the effectiveness of today’s Neighborhood Planning Unit system and question whether its operations remain useful and relevant today. He said that too likely needs to be studied.

Although the attendance at the meeting was small, those who were there seemed to believe that some good might come out of the discussions with Mitchell….that there really might be a study of how condo owners can gain a bit more representation at the table concerning city issues—like the road transformation plans for Peachtree Road in their front yards.

The Buckhead Condo Alliance, which is just over a year old, now has 19 condo buildings as members representing about 2,000 condo residential units. The Alliance president is Ben Howard, a resident in the historic Alhambra condominiums on Peachtree Road. For more information, click here.

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