Published on June 8th, 2016 |1
Changes to city’s zoning ordinance, NPU system raise some concerns
At the end of Tuesday night’s NPU-B board meeting, the chairman and a member of the NPU’s Zoning Committee initiated a discussion about the changes, which they feel now has the city encouraging garage apartments in single family neighborhoods as well as townhomes and condos.
NPU-B Zoning chair Bill Murray pointed out that present zoning laws discourage garage apartments in single family home neighborhoods, but he said it has become obvious to him that with the new zoning changes “the city plans to push garage apartments.”
Murray and Zoning Committee member Nancy Bliwise first raised the issue at the end of the NPU-B Zoning Committee’s May 31st meeting, after having attended the second information session in Buckhead on the proposed zoning ordinance revisions.
Murray said at that May meeting that NPU-B had a long-standing policy of denying variances for garage apartments in Buckhead’s neighborhoods.
Murray said in many Buckhead neighborhoods, garages are already within the legal setbacks and adding a second story would mean they would be encroaching further into the legal setback area.
That causes an extra burden on the neighboring property, Murray said. Neighbors would now be looking at a two-story structure and potentially be subjected to additional noise created by those now living very close to their own residence.
Murray said the NPU might be able to limit garage apartments by saying it “will not support it for anyone already within the setback.” But he agreed the NPU would likely have to approve it for anyone who is not already encroaching into the setback.
New NPU-B board member Susan Campbell said the city wants to promote garage apartments because “property taxes increase tremendously on garage apartment properties.”
NPU-B board chair Andrea Bennett told those in both meetings that she supports the city in encouraging garage apartments because she feels it is “great for elderly people. I think it is cool.” She explained it is helpful for aging in place. “We don’t have enough properties to deal with children dealing with their elderly parents.”
Bliwise added, “We don’t know the future needs for elder care.”
But during the May discussion, one member of the Zoning Committee pointed out that parking is going to be a problem, since in most of the older Buckhead neighborhoods there already is not enough off-street parking, resulting in a lot cars being parked on narrow neighborhood streets.
Another committee member however said garage apartments would attract “a certain age group that does not have cars and don’t want them.”
Murray also pointed out that the proposals coming out of the city’s Planning Department also suggest there will be significant changes to the NPU System that would include trying to make the various NPUs operate similarly and also merging some NPUs based on their size.
Bliwise agreed there are some major changes being proposed and added, “Some people said to get rid of the NPU system altogether.”
Bennett agreed that there is little conformity in the way the NPUs operated throughout the city and that it would be a good thing to come up with a unified means of operating—including dealing with zoning and development matters.
The NPU-B board members vowed to get more involved in reviewing what the Planning Department is working on regarding changes to the zoning ordinance as well as changes to the NPU system.