Published on August 5th, 2015 |16
NPU-B delays votes on Connect Atlanta Plan changes until September
The three most contentious ordinances for adoption among board members were: “a design manual for active, balanced & complete streets,” “a strategy for advancing transit-oriented
development,” and “Cycle Atlanta phase 1.0 study.”
The one item approved unanimously by the board was an ordinance to adopt Cargo Atlanta: A Citywide Freight Study, largely because they see no harm in it even though they were not sure of its need or how it might affect Buckhead or NPU-B.
However, the board members largely felt they had not had time to fully study the updated 80-page Connect Atlanta Plan Appendices—which they indicated they had just received a day or two prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Therefore, consideration of three of the items for a vote was put off until the Sept. 1 meeting. The NPU is asked to take its vote on the ordinances before Sept. 14.
When the Connect Atlanta Plan appendices first came before NPU-B at its June 2 meeting, most concerns and objections among board members seemed to be related to the city’s proposed strategy for advancing transit-oriented development.
The major arguments voiced at the June 2 meeting were that the city already has sufficient legislation in place defining TODs (transit-oriented developments) and that this new proposed change could adversely encroach on established residential neighborhoods in Buckhead.
But NPU-B chair Andrea Bennett told the board at its July 7 meeting that she had been in communication with the city’s Planning Department and
there were changes being made to the proposals regarding TODs, delaying the required vote on the legislation until NPU-B’s August meeting.
Bennett said the item dealing with Transit Oriented Development “initially raised some concerns because of the language encouraging this within a 1/2 mile radius of MARTA stations. That would have impacted many solidly single family neighborhoods. In addition, the areas around the MARTA stations are already governed by SPI’s which define where TODs can take place,” she explained.
“They (city planners) agreed that the update needed to be clarified to make it plain that it was not intended to extend TODs into existing single family neighborhoods,” Bennett said. “They are updating the maps and the text of the proposed amendments but they are not finished yet. That is why I suggested that we not vote on the matter yet,” Bennett said on July 7.
At the Aug. 4 meeting, Bennett indicated she no longer had a problem with the ordinance dealing with TODs because she said the city planners had changed the language of the ordinance “to make it clear it is not intended to impact in any way on single family neighborhoods.” She said it states that now in several places throughout the ordinance.
Board member Cathy Boston, who lives near the Brookhaven MARTA rail station, said she is concerned about the broad verbiage of the ordinance….that it can allow several story buildings right next to single family homes.
Board Secretary Jim Cosgrove said he is not in favor of this ordinance. “I think it is dangerous. We as an NPU are supposed to make these decisions on an ad hoc basis,” he said. “It is ammunition for developers to increase density in these areas.”
Cosgrove asked, “What is the benefit that comes from this? We don’t want this additional density in many areas of Buckhead.”
Board member Bob Staslowski said, “It would be good to have a few days to read through it and maybe then have a meeting with some board members and Jonathan Lewis,” the city planner who authored all four ordinances that are part of the Connect Atlanta Plan Appendices.
Most members of the board agreed they had not had time to fully digest that ordinance and two other controversial ones involved in the appendices and wanted to delay voting until the September meeting.
Also at the June meeting, some members of the NPU board had voiced strong concerns about the direction the Bike Atlanta plans were going and the placement of new bike lanes on existing major city thoroughfares, which reduces the travel capacity for motor vehicles. There was concern not just about the present changes proposed, but for the precedent they might set.
At the June meeting, Cosgrove voiced objection to the city’s plan to add bike lanes to major thoroughfares, including Peachtree Road in Buckhead. He said he has nothing against having bike routes in the city, but they should be routed through less dangerous areas and on less congested roadways.
“We have to decide do we want to ride bicycles or drive cars on Peachtree,” Cosgrove said. “I think this is really, really critical.”
At the Aug. 4 meeting, Cosgrove carried his concerns further and initially offered a motion for NPU-B to “disapprove” adoption of the Complete Streets ordinance. He likely also would have offered a motion to “disapprove” the Cycle Atlanta ordinance if the discussion had gone that far.
Board member France Campbell pointed out that the Complete Streets ordinance “follows GDOT’s (Georgia Department of Transportation) plan for complete streets” and apparently feels the NPU board should let the road engineers design the streets.
Board member Amy Hillman said she wanted to hear why people were against the Complete Streets ordinance.
Cosgrove replied, “Simply speaking, look at Pharr Road. We need to decide whether we are going to drive on streets in Buckhead or going to ride on bikes and streetcars. This is about the bicycle lobby,” he said. “I cannot drive my kids to baseball practice on a bicycle.
“This is almost about whether single family residences will continue to be viable,” Cosgrove added. “Plans that are afoot downtown are hostile to the way I live and the way most people in Buckhead live.”
“No new bike lanes are proposed within NPU-B at this time,” Bennett told board members. “Obviously, if that were to change at some point in the future we would need to know the details and be able to weigh in.”
Cosgrove said the purpose of the ad hoc committee, or discussion group, was to come up with suggestions to provide to the city along with the results of the NPU’s vote. He said he hopes the group can follow through with that and have a meeting with Lewis prior to the votes in September.
Cosgrove withdrew his motion to “disapprove” of the Complete Streets ordinance but told the board he will like renew that motion on Sept. 1.