Published on January 27th, 2016 |1
NPU-B zoning unit approves Branch’s Peachtree Battle development
The vote, which came after two passionate appeals from the audience for the developers to save a 1929 former book bindery building and to fund a study of how to deal with the impact the project will have on the Peachtree Hills neighborhood streets, was 7-0 with one abstention.
The abstention was by Zoning Committee chair Bill Murray, who said his real estate company has some business interest involved with the development. That abstention vote will cause the development team—represented by Morris Manning Martin attorney Carl Westmoreland—to return for the full NPU-B board meeting Feb. 2.
Westmoreland, who handled the presentation for the development team as Branch executives stood by at the meeting, told the Zoning Committee members that Branch Properties had an executed agreement with the neighborhood that addressed the most important issues.
Through a series of meetings with neighborhood representatives, Westmoreland said Branch executives had agreed to reduce the height of the building from 21 stories to 15 and reduce the amount of retail space from 30,000 square feet to 15,000.
In addition to those two concessions, Branch had addressed neighborhood objections to demolishing a 1929 former book bindery building on the site by agreeing to retain the front 2,600 square feet of the building as part of the 15,000 square feet of retail space. The back part of the building was added in the 1960s.
The major issue consistently brought up by residents involved controlling traffic through the adjacent Peachtree Hills neighborhood streets.
Westmoreland said the agreement also would ask the city to take the approximately $120,000 in impact fees generated from the project and dedicate it to sidewalk and road work as the neighborhood sees fit.
In addition, Branch has agreed to make improvements to the intersection Terrace Drive and Glenwood at the back end of the shopping center that would
shrink the road width, add a median strip and a stop sign to slow down traffic.
Westmoreland also said Branch agreed to pay Peachtree Hills $1,000 per month to cover the cost of any additional security the neighborhood felt it would have to engage because of the apartment/retail development.
The property involved is 1.866 acres at the corner of Peachtree and Terrace and is currently occupied by a Burger King, Design Within Reach and the former book bindery, now an antique store.
The Burger King and antique store are zoned C-3, unconditional, as is the balance of the Peachtree Battle Center. The Design Within Reach property was zoned C-1 with conditions to permit the Loop Pizza restaurant several years ago.
The application proposes to zone the property C-3 conditioned on a site plan and other conditions for a residential building with parking accommodated in a deck under and to the rear of the
building. The development would include approximately 251 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
In terms of vehicular access, the building will use the existing drive from the upper Publix parking deck at the shopping center onto Terrace Drive and also have access through the shopping center to the Peachtree/Peachtree Battle traffic signal, as well as other shopping center driveways to Peachtree. There would be an additional non-signalized curb cut on Peachtree.
Branch Properties has owned Peachtree Battle Shopping Center since 1982 and this would add a residential component to the center.
France Campbell, who represents the Peachtree Hills neighborhood on the NPU-B board, said that a poll taken when the development was initially announced showed that neighborhood residents overwhelmingly opposed the Branch development plans.
However, he said a recent poll of the neighborhood showed 76 percent of the residents now approve of the development. The neighborhood association submitted a letter of approval to the NPU-B Zoning Committee.
It was also pointed out that Branch executives met separately with representatives of the Park Lane condominiums and that Park Lane and neighborhoods surrounding Peachtree Hills yielded to Peachtree Hills on the matter.
However, two Peachtree Hills residents did speak up at the NPU-B meeting—one very much opposed to the development plans, even after Branch’s concessions, and the other primarily asking the developer to pay for a study and plan for dealing with the impact on neighborhood streets.
But it was Laura Dobson who made a passionate plea for the NPU-B Zoning Committee to reject the Branch plan until the developer agreed to retain all of the original book bindery building as it presently exists within the development plans.
Dobson talked of the history of the building, since it was built as the National Bindery. That after it ceased being the National Bindery, it became the Oxford Two bookstore, Smith & Hawkins retail store and finally the present antiques store.
She pointed out that if Branch would retain the additional 3,000 square feet of the original building—in addition to the 2,600 square feet it has agreed to keep intact—then Branch could qualify for tax incentives based on the historic nature of the building.
Dobson also talked of adding electric car charging stations into the project, which could also bring Branch additional tax incentives.
But, after everyone was heard on both sides of the discussion, the NPU-B Zoning Committee voted to approve the application with the attached developer’s agreement to the neighborhood.