City Government

Published on September 26th, 2017 |

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Buckhead Parking Overlay District plan brings development moratorium

By John Schaffner

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed last week signed an executive order placing a moratorium on new development projects in areas of Buckhead, giving City Council time to review a proposed ordinance that would reduce the number of parking spaces developers can build as part of their projects.

Council Members Howard Shook and Yolanda Adrean co-sponsored the ordinance that would create the ‘Buckhead Parking Overlay District,’ which includes high-density locations along the

The Parking Overlay District map that is included with the proposed ordinance.

Peachtree Road corridor between I-85 on the south and the city limit on the north. (View a Map of the Parking District)

The decision for the Parking Overlay District resulted from an earlier analysis requested by Adrean and Shook which showed that Buckhead’s road capacity is disappearing, with much of the blame for traffic focused on new apartment developments.

Shook told BuckheadView, “As the recently built apartment buildings begin filling with new residents, Buckhead’s traffic congestion has morphed from a nuisance to a threat to our health, safety and welfare.”

Shook added, “The (Peachtree Road) intersections in Buckhead are all rated an F. The afternoon rush hour traffic begins at 1 p.m. and goes to 8 p.m. The Atlanta Police Department lists four of the city’s worst 10 intersections as being in Buckhead.”

“Current zoning allows “suburban-style” parking allowances which are out of date,” Councilmember Adrean told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “It is time to address the preponderance of development impacting our neighborhoods with car centric destinations.”

Adrean added, “Neighborhood representatives grimly understand that development rights cannot be taken away, but that doesn’t apply to the number of parking spaces that directly contribute to our congestion problem.”

Under the proposed Buckhead Parking Overlay District ordinance, the maximum number of parking spaces per category (retail, office, lodging, and residential) will be reduced to those allowed in downtown Atlanta.

But the Parking Overlay District ordinance was just one of five related pieces of legislation introduced by Shook and Adrean last week, including one that temporarily enforces Reed’s executive

City Councilman Howard Shook checks his notes as he makes a point with the audience during a Buckhead appearance..

order and another that extends the moratorium.

That proposed ordinance would establish a 120-day moratorium on the issuance of any permits for developments that include parking—other than eating and drinking establishments—unless the development conforms to the new parking standards.

Shook told BuckheadView, “Unless a developer’s applications have passed every political phase of the approval process, the city will not accept the application unless it meets the proposed new parking standards.”

Three pieces of legislation are aimed at correcting “incident congestion” situations, Shook said. One requests the Department of Public Works to refrain from issuing lane closure permits during weekday peak periods of 6:30-9 a.m. and 4:15-6:30 p.m., which would restrict delivery trucks from blocking lanes of Peachtree during rush hour traffic times.

Two of the proposed ordinances are aimed Atlanta Police Department enforcement procedures. One requests the APD to enforce present law that requires commercial delivery trucks to park in delivery zone spaces or metered parking spaces, but not on the road. A second requests the APD to pull traffic violators into parking lots or side streets for processing of citations.

An email synopsis of the proposed new Parking Overlay District and moratorium ordinances sent out by Livable Buckhead stated: “Doing business and development just changed for Buckhead as a result of several resolutions recently introduced to the Atlanta City Council by Council Members Howard Shook and Yolanda Adrean.

“First, three separate actions were taken that collectively add up to restrictions on all new developments other than eating and drinking establishments and the placement of stricter (lower)

City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean talks with constituents at the second public open house on the Peachtree Road Transformation Project.

parking requirements.”

Regarding the Parking Overlay District, the Livable Bucklhead email states: “The ordinance amends the zoning code to create a new parking overlay district along Peachtree corridor throughout Buckhead….establishes new parking requirements that supplant the existing parking requirements in the underlying zoning. If you are in one of the SPI districts (SPI-9 or SPI-12) created in the last few years, don’t panic, it isn’t that much more restrictive. If you are below Pharr Road, it’s a different story.”
One major traffic problem, according to Shook is “there are only 18 ways in and out of the target area” using connecting side streets. But the target area includes “150 million square feet of developable land, where present one- and two-story buildings could be replaced by 20-storybuildings,” he added.

The analysis by consultant Arcadis of a study done more than a year ago, however, didn’t necessarily put all the blame for traffic congestion directly on new apartments.

The findings showed that of the nearly 69,000 employees in the Buckhead core, including areas around its two MARTA stations, more than 18,000 employees can only afford apartments that

Looking north on Peachtree Road, from Pharr Road.

cost $1,000 or less per month. There are less than 1,500 apartment units in the Buckhead core that rent for $1,000 or less.

Most of those 18,000 employees work in retail, restaurants or hotels, the service industries that support the luxury brands and lifestyle Buckhead is known for. Much of Buckhead’s working and lower-middle class can work in the neighborhood, but they just can’t live there and walk to their jobs.

In fact, 98 percent of the employees who work in the Buckhead core live outside the area. So, they commute.

Shook told BuckheadView there was discussion of following the London model of charging a fee to those outsiders entering Buckhead. “We heard some say ‘you’re finally getting your wall up around Buckhead’. Others pointed out the Legislature would see it as an illegal commuter tax.”

Buckhead leaders are working on a new master plan, known as BUCKHEAD REdeFINED, which would include ideas to reduce traffic congestion, add greenspace and improve other challenges facing the neighborhood.

“It is no secret that Buckhead has traffic, and we need to be aggressive and forward thinking in our search for solutions. Our council people are doing exactly that with this study,” the Business Chronicle was told by Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead Inc.

“Together with BUCKHEAD REdeFINED, these efforts are bringing mobility-oriented standards to all of Buckhead,” she added.

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