Mayor’s Office of Communications
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 2500 • Atlanta, Georgia 30303
|Lanii Thomas, Dept. of Planning and Community Development
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 05/25/12
Department of Planning and Community Development Helps Buckhead Set Expectations for Future Growth
Buckhead Community Development Standards Approved by Atlanta City
Protecting adjacent historic neighborhoods and incentives for developments that include green options and transportation connected projects are clearly defined in legislation passed this week by the Atlanta City Council. For the past 18 months, planners from the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Office of Planning have been working diligently with citizens, businesses and neighborhood groups on a new zoning ordinance for Special Public Interest District 12 (SPI 12). It includes the commercial core of Buckhead surrounding Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza.
A key change within the ordinance is a transition to an innovative type of zoning that regulates development based on its form (type and appearance of the building), from the traditional method of zoning primarily by function (residential, commercial, etc.). The new SPI 12 zoning district enables increased building heights for any development incorporating walk-able urban blocks, pedestrian green space and plazas and proximity to transit.
“The approval of SPI 12 by the City Council further sets the stage in Buckhead for reviewing and analyzing development on a strategic and consistent basis. The approval of this legislation on the heels of the approval of the SPI-9 update represents successful collaboration between citizens and Office of Planning staff in an effort to keep Atlanta moving forward,” said Office of Planning Director, Charletta Wilson Jacks.
“Exciting may not be the first word that comes to mind when you’re talking about changes to zoning laws, but in this case it’s a perfect fit,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit organization that led the effort to update the SPI-12 zoning. “It’s exciting to see how the City Office of Planning and the Buckhead community were able to work together to create a new code that benefits everyone. It’s exciting that we’ve created the greenest district within the City of Atlanta. And it’s especially exciting to think about the positive impact this will have in the years ahead, both for Buckhead and as a model for the rest of the city.”
Seven representatives of Buckhead neighborhoods, community organizations and businesses have worked with Livable Buckhead and the City of Atlanta’s Office of Planning Principal Planner Karl Smith David to update SPI-12’s zoning for the first time since 1982. Highlights of the zoning ordinance changes include:
- Codification of the standard set of development requirements that were typically imposed during project review by the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU). Under the new zoning, the NPU will no longer have to review every project, simplifying the process for developers while ensuring projects meet community standards.
- Improved standards for streetscaping, pedestrian walk zones, walking paths and public greenspace, ensuring that projects make a positive contribution to the community aesthetic.
- Requirement for storefront treatment of street-fronting building facades, walkable urban blocks, transitional height protection adjacent to neighborhoods, hidden parking and loading areas and urban signage treatments.
- Incentives for energy efficiency, encouraging developers to pursue environmental certifications such as LEED from the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Incentives for developers that choose to locate their projects close to transit and increase walkability, reducing vehicle traffic and the pollution associated with it.
- Establishment of a development review committee (DRC). The DRC includes seven representatives of Buckhead stakeholder groups, including the neighborhoods, commercial property owners and MARTA. This committee will make recommendations to the city as new projects are presented for approval.
The update was funded through a grant from the Livable Centers Initiative of the Atlanta Regional Commission, which was matched by funds from the Buckhead Community Improvement District. The project was supported by consultants Market + Main, Perkins & Will and Maddox Bowman Nix and Zoeckler.
The zoning update was initially suggested by Sally Silver, chairperson of NPU B. “It had become painfully clear that the previous zoning was outdated,” Silver said. “This update brings the laws into line with Buckhead’s standards and ensures that we will have a thriving, livable community for years to come.”
About the Department of Planning and Community Development:
The mission of the Department of Planning and Community Development is to plan and implement the future by guiding the physical and economic development of the City while enhancing the quality of life for all through a comprehensive range of planning, design review, construction plan approval, and housing preservation and assistance services and programs.
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