UDC.. Garages.. and Carbrain

It's been a while but I thought I'd share my recent letter to Mayor and Council on the topic of requiring garages for homes in Roswell.  This is truly a case of personal preference invading our city zoning code but it is also a symptom of a much larger affliction that is a pandemic in our society... Carbrain

 

Dear Mayor and Council,

I have a concern.  It is my understanding that we are looking to require that homes have garages in the revised UDC.  I find it hard to understand why we would have some aversion to allowing some homes to be built without garages. There is no proven research that I can find (and I have looked and looked) that links the lack of garages and thus the presence of on-street parking to any type of social issues (crime, health issues, poverty, etc). 

The biggest misconception that I hear is that on-street parking invites criminal activity. This is always anecdotal but it seems so convincing.  The crime link on the face of it may seem to correlate but causation and correlation are often unrelated. For every high crime place that has on-street parking, I can find a low-crime place that has on-street parking.  I can also find a correlation to coffee drinking and poor performance in the office as almost all of my poor performers drink coffee.  So, it must be the coffee right?  Well, wrong.  Crime is a complex socio-economic condition and is pretty much unrelated to the presence of garages just as poor work performance is unrelated to coffee consumption.  

Ultimately, I can only surmise that we are succumbing to the affliction I have dubbed Carbrain. 

If we are truly looking to build a walkable community which is by all accounts highly desired by a high percentage of homebuyers, we must get this car-first mentality out of our heads.  Just because something has been done one way for a long time (building suburban homes with garages) does not make it the right way or the only way.  In fact, some of the most desirable areas in Atlanta today have many homes that do not have garages.  Quite frankly, garages, particularly front-loaders, can significantly reduce the curb appeal and architectural quality of a home.  Seriously, our most popular and most photographed streets are Canton, Mimosa, Bulloch and Sloan.  How many of the historic houses that front them have visible front loading garages?  One, and that's a later modification that probably would have been denied by the HPC.

Carbrain is a cancer on our built environment and on our public realm and it we must beat it.  Over 30,000 people die in automobile crashes annually in the US and another 2.3 million are injured or disabled.  Much of this would be preventable if we designed more walkable and bikable places where people don't need to get into cars to make every trip and where cars are tamed to drive slower and more responsibly. Adding a requirement for garages is just one symptom of Carbrain and only furthers our commitment to a built environment that perpetuates 30,000 annual auto-related fatalities, 2.3 million injuries and costs America over $230 billion a year.

Please stop the madness and remove any consideration of garage requirements from any UDC revisions.  Let's be leaders in beating Carbrain!

Thank you,

Mike Hadden

UDC - Let's Get it Right

As you likely know, the UDC will be getting a serious look in the coming weeks.  The UDC was always intended to be a living document and there are a number of things that should be altered and improved.  I had a number of serious concerns with the initial proposal that the City Council brought forth in January.  I addressed those in this post.  

We are now getting into a review period that is kicking off this Thursday, 2/18, with a work session at City Hall.  I am posting my thoughts and suggestions on the items that I feel are the highest priority.  Those are below.

Suburban Residential Small Lot Housing Types

Initial Proposal - Eliminate everything below 12k square foot in Suburban Residential

My Suggestion - Create New Zoning Class that Allows this but in Context

The initial suggestions would impact all lots smaller than 12,000 sq ft in Suburban Residential areas which is roughly 80% of the land mass of the city of Roswell.  Basically, the new council is trying to eliminate all smaller lot residential in our suburban residential areas.  I think this wholesale elimination of 9,000 square foot lots, 6,000 square foot lots, 4,000 square foot lots, cottage court developments and town homes is the wrong approach.  

The objective should be to ensure appropriate transitions between the border of one area to the next.  

I suggest we create a new zoning category called Mixed Village which allows any of the aforementioned types but they must be mixed into a development.  The rules would be as follows:

  • Parcel Size - Mixed Village is allowed on any assemblage of 10 acres or more in a Suburban Residential area.
  • Building Variety - Mixed Village must contain at least 3 building/lot combinations (ex. 9,000 sq ft, 4,000 sq ft & cottage court)
  • Public Park - Mixed Village must contain at least 10% publicly accessible park space (similar to Sloan Street Park in the Mill Village; 10 acres would mean 1 acre must be public park)
  • Context - Mixed Village developments must pay attention to neighboring residential and must have 9,000 square foot lots on the borders of at least 75% of the border in areas that abut larger lot sizes.  If more than 50% of the abutting lots are half acre or more, then 12,000 square foot lots will be the minimum for the 75% border requirement. 

This Mixed Village will keep what is a desirable housing type available to developers but it will protect existing property owners by providing a buffer that forces a reasonable transition between larger lots and smaller lots.  It will also create neighborhoods with pocket parks that will be amenities to the neighboring areas.  Finally, it will eliminate the possibility that we have new developments that are monocultures of housing types.

I would also suggest that Mixed Village be the preferred zoning type for any purely residential development > 10 acres anywhere in the city to ensure that we don’t continue to build housing monocultures.

Setbacks

Initial Proposal - Create 40 foot minimum setbacks for virtually all residential.  Increase side and rear setbacks significantly as well.

My Suggestion - Create variable setback in Downtown and make only modest changes to side and rear setbacks in Downtown.

My primary concern with the setback suggestions proposed (40 foot for all residential) is in the downtown.  Walkable downtowns have varying setbacks and tend to be smaller than suburban residential.  I propose a form of a variable setback in our downtown that would look something like below:

  • Mid-Block Buildings - Setbacks for mid-block buildings can be no more that 5' more or less than the average of the four adjacent properties (2 left and 2 right)
  • Corner or End Buildings - If the building will sit at a corner or end of a street, setback can be as low as 50% of the average setback of the two abutting properties.  If those properties both have setbacks of 10' or less, the setback can be 0.’  This is appropriate for a corner lot in a walkable downtown.
  • Existing Setbacks - All buildings are entitled to the existing setback on the property if it is less than the above calculation.

Side and rear setbacks should remain consistent with the UDC.  Any changes to them should not be drastic in nature.

This would keep a developer from significantly altering a streetscape while providing flexibility to build a unique building that varies somewhat from those adjacent to it.  

Lot Coverage

Initial Proposal - Move lot coverage in downtown from 60-75% to roughly 40% across the board.

My Suggestion - Talk to developers and see what is realistic given land values.  We cannot apply 40% to every building type or lot.  Corner lots that are going to be townhomes cannot be done with 40% lot coverage.

One reason why we did not see significant redevelopment in our downtown for years.. even prior to the real estate recession had to do with lot coverage requirements.  I don’t think that the initial proposal is realistic and it definitely is in opposition to creating a truly walkable downtown.  Please get a task force with several developers who have done quality work in our downtown and discuss this matter with them.

Carriage Houses

Initial Proposal - Eliminate Carriage Houses as an approved option for lot sizes below 30,000 square feet

My Suggestion - Completely drop this proposal or allow down to 6,000 square foot loots.

The carriage house is a very popular building type these days and we should not be limiting these to 2/3 acre lots and larger.  There are dozens of examples of very nice carriage houses on relatively small lots within our downtown and in some of our nicer residential subdivisions.  

This should be an allowed building type on lot sizes down to 6,000 square feet which already exist in the historic district.  There are numerous excellent examples of high quality single family residences with carriage houses on 9, 12, 18 thousand square foot lots in and around the historic district.  Additionally, Vickery Village has hundreds of examples of this type of building on lots as small as 4,000 square feet and even in Cumming the neighborhood is able to command some of the highest prices per square foot in the metro area.  

There are other changes that I think are warranted but these are the ones I feel are critical.  

At the end of the day, the changes need to be supported by the community but also realistic to developers.  If we want redevelopment, we can’t have our region’s best and most influential developers and real estate pros laughing at us because we have created an unrealistic code.  

Leaders... Get on the Right Side of the Tracks! Support Red Line Rail Expansion

Sign the Petition to Support the Red Line

 

LETTER TO

  • State Senator John Albers
  • State Senator Brandon Beach
  • State Representative Betty Price
  • John Eaves, Fulton County Chairman
  • Fulton County Board of Commissioners
  • Roswell Mayor and Council
  • Johns Creek Mayor and Council
  • Alpharetta Mayor and Council
  • Milton Mayor and Council
  • Sandy Springs Mayor and Council
  • Mountain Park Mayor and Council

If you don’t support MARTA Rail expansion, you’re on the wrong side of the tracks!

Why is it that we can afford $2.4 billion to add ‘express’ lanes up GA 400 but we can’t make a similar investment in transit? If adding lanes is an attempt to cure congestion, how are those extra lanes that were finished in 2007 looking right about now? 

We need options not express lanes. Extending the rail line will give us those options.

Extending the Red Line to Windward Parkway will :

  • Provide the option that commuters desperately need. 
  • Stimulate additional economic development similar to that seen around existing MARTA stations (State Farm, Mercedes Benz, NCR…)
  • Be consistent with what residents and employees in North Fulton want to see, namely rail transit to Windward Parkway

It won’t:

  • Increase Crime – Evidence of significant increases in crime are anecdotal at best and according to a study done on the last MARTA expansion, just plain unfounded.
  • Ruin our Schools – There is no credible evidence that transit impacts school quality.
  • Lower our Property Values – If anything, it will increase property values for the vast majority of properties.

A lot has been said about BRT as an option and it should be considered, just not for the north-south line. It should be considered to provide east-west service from key train stations. BRT is an excellent option when you are building a system from scratch but it will not serve as an effective extension of the Red Line for several reasons:

  • Modal Shift – Switching from bus to train at North Springs would be a ridership killer for riders of choice and would handicap the system from the start.
  • Speed – BRT is slower than Rail and this stretch is exactly where you need speed in the system due to the long stretches between stations.
  • Permanence – We used to have a quasi-BRT system in North Fulton and ridership has always been low. Now, those lanes are car lanes during rush hour.
  • Track Record – There are only 5 true BRT systems in the U.S. and only one reaches silver (gold is the best) on the BRT Standard rating system. Do we really think we will build a world class bus system in a region that has stigmatized bus service for decades when no other North American city has been able to achieve that standard? 

We need to stop kidding ourselves. North Fulton needs rail transit. It is the best option even if it is the most expensive option. 

I urge you to hop over to the right side of the tracks and support MARTA rail expansion into North Fulton.

Support the Red Line… It’s About Time!

The Pending Demise of Downtown Roswell

Our new council seems to feel that they are operating under a mandate to roll back everything in our city to a time when life was better and redevelopment happened ‘the right way.’  On Friday, the city got its first glimpse of the UDC overhauls that this new council is proposing.  They are essentially trying to roll back our zoning to what we had prior to the UDC.  Mind you, there was very little redevelopment going on prior to the UDC due to our antiquated and broken zoning that discouraged redevelopment and encouraged property owners to sit on blighted property and collect income from tenants or depreciate their assets.  I’m not sure that’s the Roswell I’d like to return to.

The proposals that are going before council for the first time this evening are not trivial.  There are suggested edits or changes to about 150 lines across 70 pages of the UDC.  There are several building types and zoning categories that would be completely removed.  Setback and lot coverage requirements are being changed in ways that a) make zero sense in real world application and b) make redevelopment of properties very unlikely.

The kicker is that there is no explanation on why these edits are being made, what the real-world trade-offs are and how they will impact property owners.  The only explanation that I have seen is that the council has a “mandate” from this election to make the changes that their supporters wanted.  Well, if their supporters knew that the changes they are ‘requesting’ will virtually kill quality redevelopment in Roswell, I’m pretty sure they would not support the changes.  (or maybe no redevelopment is what they were actually looking for) The public only became aware of these text edits on Friday when the agenda for the mayor and city council meeting was posted to the city website.

Whether you like the UDC or not, there is no question that the public was aware of the effort (unless they actively chose not to be involved in their city).  There were over 60 meetings that were open to the public over the 18 months that the UDC worked its way through the process. 

What is being suggested by our council is not grounded in reality.  Many of the proposed amendments are based on personal preferences of the new council and an influential few who have their ear.  Many of these edits are not best practices and are just plain unrealistic.  Additionally, many of the edits could be considered downzoning which could require compensation from the city for the taking of property rights.  We need national best practices in our zoning code to attract top developers.  What we don’t need are personal preferences that aren’t grounded in reality.

The UDC was done by a nationally recognized firm that has worked on zoning codes for Asheville, Chattanooga, Los Angeles, Denver, Raleigh, Memphis and more.  They used best practices in building types, zoning districts, lot coverage, setbacks and land use to craft the new UDC.  It is not perfect and does need improvements in certain areas.  However, it is absolutely does NOT need a wholesale rewrite.

We are on the verge of throwing out the work done by Code Studio, our city staff and hundreds of dedicated Roswell citizens and handing over the future of development in our city to our new council, that has alarmingly little real estate and place making experience, and several of their more vocal friends.  This is concerning to say the least.

If these changes pass, our city council is metaphorically encasing our downtown in amber and ensuring that needed redevelopment will not occur.

What just might be the most disappointing thing is not that the proposed changes epically suck but that our new council that ran on a platform of open and transparent government has completely failed on that promise.  It couldn’t resist taking its first shot at rewriting the zoning code by catering to their personal opinions and those of their political allies while giving little notice to impacted property owners and allowing virtually zero public input. 

Below, I have summarized the most egregious of the proposed changes:

  • Elimination of 6000 and 4000 square foot lots in Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Cottage Courts completely from Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Townhouses from Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Carriage House from Residential Lots less than 30,000 square feet
  • Elimination of Attached Houses (i.e. Duplex, Four-Plex)
  • Increase of Setbacks for virtually all development in downtown to 40 feet from 10 feet
  • Reducing Lot Coverage for virtually all development in downtown to a almost universal 40% from 60-75% depending on building type.
  • Addition of maximum density of 5 units per acre for townhomes and cottage courts.
  • Addition of the term density to the document.  Lot size, setbacks and height apparently don’t effectively work.
  • Cottage Courts will be required to have garages.

 

Suggested Changes with Commentary (link to UDC page for reference)

Chapter 2

The changes suggested in this chapter eliminate a housing type.  Mandate that we use the word density in the document. Make some changes to what can/cannot be classified as outdoor amenity space.

2.1 Building Types

C. Attached House add (no new applications for this type will be accepted)

- Why? Does someone just not like this building type? One of the biggest issues in American development is the lack of the middle types of housing. (http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/dan-parolek/17698/missing-middle-housing-responding-demand-urban-living)   We go from single family and townhome straight to multi-story apartments and condos.  This seems to be very short sighted and catering to the preferences of a few.

2.2.3 Density - replace with language about maximum density

- Why? Does someone not understand that limiting lot coverage and height effectively limits density.

2.2.6 Landscaped Open Space Neighborhood compatibility and/or stream buffer does not count old code: “no more than 25% of any lot area in water or flood plain shall be credited as minimum required landscape open space"

- Not a terrible idea.  I'd like to see why this is necessary though.

2.2.7 Outdoor Amenity Space

B.2. remove "other than rooftop areas"

- This is a bad move. The current language actually encourages creative use of rooftops in areas where building is going to be tighter anyway.  I'm not sure why this would need to be removed.

5.b. delete entirely

- Again, this is a bad move.  See above comment.

Do not allow detention ponds to count unless used as accessible amenity

- I totally agree with this one and feel that detention ponds could and should be enhanced. 

2.2.10 Setback Encroachments

remove 11. retaining walls can encroach

- I think this should remain but with exceptions.

12. driveways may encroach only in residential categories RS-9/12/18/30/87/AG

- Why is this an issue?  Has there been conflict with this?

Chapter 3

The changes made to chapter 3, essentially makes a 9000 sq ft lot the smallest that can be built in Roswell

3.1.6 RS-9

Limit within Sub Res. Replace "RS-9 is implements Suburban Residential..." with text from RS-6 "implements the Highway 9/..."

- I assume the author is trying to reduce the amount of RS-9 that can be built.

for all existing: can be rebuilt as originally platted and constructed

- Thanks for the generosity.

3.1.7 RS-6 delete as stand-alone category

- Let's continue to reduce the type and variety of our housing stock.  Will there be any housing that’s affordable to anyone who doesn’t make an above average wage?

3.1.8 RS-4 delete as stand-alone category

- Continuing to reduce the type and varied our our housing stock

R-TH

delete "attached house".

- Again, this is a bad idea. We need affordable housing options and these types of buildings help accomplish that.

Delete "Suburban Residential"

- Oh the irony.  If it were only that easy.

Add "R-TH is only suitable for pre-existing townhome sites".

- First it was no more apartments.  Now it’s no more townhomes.  Are we going to be an exclusively single-family home city?

3.1.11

RM-2 change name to Small Condominiums/Apartments

- This is purely cosmetic but plays to the fears many people have about apartments. 

3.1.12

RM-3 change name to Large Condominiums/Apartments

- Another cosmetic change.

3.2.1

Building Types by District delete Carriage House from RS-18/RS-12

- If you are building on 18000 (.4 acres) and 12000 (.27 acres) sq ft lots, you won't be able to build a carriage house?  Really?  This is a building type that is VERY useful and VERY popular and is a great way to increase walkability. They sell VERY well in Vickery, they are selling well in Alstead.  I'd love to buy a home with a carriage house and alley parking someday but I don’t need .67 acres (apparently I will if I want to build in Roswell).  These lot sizes are VERY compatible with carriage houses.  So, carriage houses (aka accessory dwellings) will only be allowed on lots of .68 acres (30k sq ft) or larger?

 

delete Attached House entirely (allow where currently exist)

- This is discriminatory housing policy in my opinion.  Again, why would we eliminate a housing type from Roswell?  Is there an inherent problem with this type of building or is it a personal preference.

3.2.2

Detached House 43/87/30 Add "Maximum Density" (uses old density/HFA numbers) AG-43 = "0.5", RS-87 = "0.5", RS-30 = "1.45"

- Do we really need to add this language? Seriously.  The lot sizes already dictate density.

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF" AG-43 = "n/a", RS-87 = 1800, RS-30 = 1600

- Is this really necessary? If I want to build a smaller home on a larger lot? Why shouldn't I be allowed to?

3.2.3

Detached House 18/12 Add "Maximum Density" (uses old density/HFA numbers) RS-18 = "2.42", RS-12 =

- Do we really need to add this language? Seriously.  The lot sizes already dictate density.

Initiation of UDC Text

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF"RS-18 = 1500, RS-12 = 1200

- I guess we need to dictate square footage.

3.2.4 Detached House RS-9 Add "Maximum Density"

(density uses standard division of acre) RS-9 = 4.84

(rest of numbers are from old R-3A) Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF"

RS-9 = 1000

-          Thank you for letting me know that 9000 square feet fits into 1 acre 4.84 times.

change Lot Parameters

A. Lot width min 60' to 80'

B. Building coverage max 45% to 40%

change Principal Building Setbacks

D. Primary Street 20' to 35'

E. Side street (min) 20' to 30'

F. Side interior (min) 7' to 10'

G. Rear (min) 20' to 30'

- The new coverage and setback proposals are almost universally bad for redevelopment and for walkability.

3.2.5 Detached House CC/TH/RM2/RM3 delete RS-4 (allow where existing)

delete RS-6 (allow where existing)

delete R-TH (allow where existing)

delete R-CC

delete RM-2 (allow where existing)

delete RM-3 (allow where existing)

- This is quite a change and wholly unnecessary.

3.2.6 Carriage House delete RS-12/RS-18

- Why shouldn’t someone with a .4 acre lot or a .27 acre lot be able to build a carriage house? WHY?????

3.2.7 Attached House delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.8 Cottage Court delete entirely

- Why?

3.2.9 Townhouse delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.10 Walk-Up Flat delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.11 Stacked Flat delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.3.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- I don’t understand what this is trying to limit?  I’m sure it’s something but I’m just not sure.

3.3.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- I don’t understand what this is trying to limit?  I’m sure it’s something but I’m just not sure.

3.5 PRD no new PRD                  

- I guess we won’t have any more Martin’s Landings.  Is this being removed just because people didn’t like Sassafras?

Chapter 4

4.3.2 Detached House add density maximum of 4.84

Min lot size 9,000 SF

delete lot area, alley-loaded and lot width, alley-loaded

Min Building Coverage 40%

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF" of 1,000

- I’m thinking they mean maximum building coverage of 40% given the theme of the rest of the document.  Whole

4.3.3 Carriage House delete entirely

-  No carriage houses allowed on nodes or corridors? Is there any reason for this?

4.3.4 Attached house delete entirely (allow where existing)

add Cottage Court add Cottage Court to Corridor/Node

with 5 unit density max and garage requirement

- Really, they added something?  Unfortunately 5 unit max is probably not going to make a very good cottage court but at least they’ll be required to have garages.

4.3.5 Townhouse add 5 unit density max (old R-THA = 5)

add min heated floor area 1,000

add Common Open Space (Res TH = 20%, 3.2.9)

- Is 5 really a realistic density number to get high quality townhome development?

4.3.5.1 D decrease building coverage max to 40%

- This is INSANE for townhomes

4.3.5.1    E increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

 

-          Where is this coming from?  Again, it limits diversity of housing stock and takes lower price point homes out of the market.  This, in my opinion, is discriminatory.

 

4.3.6 Walk-up Flat rename "Walk-up Condominium/Apartment"

add minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

- Cosmetic and wholly unnecessary.  Why the 1000 SF limit?  I’m not sure that is the right number for a 1 BR.  Is this a best practice or just a number pulled out of the air.

4.3.7 Stacked Flat rename "Stacked Condominium/Apartment"

require apts to be in mixed use building? No standard apt complex?

add minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

- Cosmetic and wholly unnecessary.  Why the 1000 SF limit?  I’m not sure that is the right number for a 1 BR.  Is this a best practice or just a number pulled out of the air.

4.3.10 Mixed Use Building Require first floor non-residential

- Is there a precedent on this or is it wishful thinking? I would LOVE to see this but I don’t think it’s a realistic requirement.

4.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

4.4.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- I’m not sure what the two items above are trying to limit.

4-32 Use Chart Storage of vehicles - minimum lot size of 3/4 acre

-          I’m not sure what this is trying to limit.

Chapter 5

5.2.3 change to "During review of an application for rezoning or conditional use,

the following must be considered:"

5.2.3 A change "should" to "must"

- You should be kidding.  This is far to limiting cannot be universally applied to all situations.

add C Off Hwy 9: 2 story maximum at the street, additional height stepped back

 

- Why? This is ridiculous.

5.3.1 Building Type chart delete Carriage House from DR and DX

- Carriage house is very appropriate for DR and DX areas.

delete Attached House entirely

- Again, these areas are some of the most appropriate areas for the attached house building type

delete townhome from DH

- There are very appropriate applications of townhomes in the DH area

delete Stacked Flat from DR? (except Hwy 9?)

- Not sure why this is necessary and why the Hwy 9 exception is there as there is virtually no DR along hwy 9

5.3.2 Detached House - Lot add density maximum of 3.63

(all from old R-HIST) increase lot area minimum to 12,000 SF

- DOUBLING the minnimum lot size?  This is downtown.  It is the area where we should have the smallest lots.  We do not need quarter acre lots in our downtown.

decrease lot coverage to 40% (old R-HIST 35-60%)

- This is very bad for diversity of building type. Couple this with the increased lot size requirement and the increased recommended setbacks and you are going to significantly curtail ANY redevelopment in our downtown.

add minimum heated floor area of 1,200 SF

-          So, we have a larger minimum heated floor area in our downtown than we do in the rest of our city?  This makes no sense.

change Principal Building Setbacks

D. Primary Street 10' to 40'

- This is insane!!!!!!!!!  Quadrupling the setback? This is the downtown of our city.  Setbacks in downtowns are NOT and should not be 40 feet.  Small setbacks are one of the primary drivers of walkability.  Aside from the historic homes, not many of our houses in the historc district are 40' or even 30' setbacks.  Research shows that 10' setbacks from property line to front porch correlates to some of the happiest, convivial, most walkable communities.  Using Goulding as an exammple, setbacks are in the 10' to 20' range.

E. Side street (min) 10' to 30'

- See comment on D

F. Side interior (min) 5' to 10'

- See comment on E

G. Rear (min) 15' to 30'

- See comment on F

5.3.4 Carriage House in DH only

- Again, why? This is appropriate where we are zoned for DX and DR currently.

5.3.5 Attached House delete entirely (allow where exist)

- This should not be removed.

5.3.6 Cottage Court add 5 unit density max

- We need examples of successful cottage court style developments and whether 5 units is the appropriate limit.

add garage requirement to each unit

- Why should they be required to have a garage?  Is this personal preference?  Is it an unfounded fear of on-street parking?  Again, what is best practice here?  Also, shouldn't the market determine whether a garage is necessary?

5.3.7 Townhouse add 5 unit density max

- Is this the right number?  It seems that the magic number in these edits is an arbitrarily assigned 5 units which has everything to do with someone’s personal preference and nothing to do with the reality of building a quality product that will enhance our city. 

(all from old R-HIST) add min heated floor area 1,000

- Should this be dictated or should the market determine this?  We wouldn’t want some rogue developer coming in and building 300 square foot townhomes.

add Common Open Space (Res TH = 20%, 3.2.9)

- No real issue with this

5.3.7.1 Lot increase Site area to 12,000 SF

- Already covered this one.  That’s way too much of an increase.

increase site width to 85 FT

- That's a heck of an increase from 55'

5.3.7.1 D decrease building coverage max to 40%

- Significant decrease from 75%.

5.3.7.1 E increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

- 20' unit width can have great floorplans.  Georgetown even has very valuable townhomes that are 16' and that place hasn’t been run over with hoodlums or suffered from some sort of lack of appreciation for its historic architecture.

5.3.7.2 Placement Increase primary street setback 5 to 40 ft

increase side street setback 5 to 20 ft

increase side interior setback 5 to 10 ft

increase rear setback 20 to 30 ft

- These setback increases are insane in a downtown environment.

5.3.8 Walk-Up Condominiums/Apts make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- What are the R-HIST setbacks?  Is this appropriate for a building of this type in a downtown environment

5.3.9 Stacked Flat make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.10 Commercial House same dimensions as R-HIST

- Same questions as above.

5.3.11 Single-story Shopfront make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.12 Mixed Use Building make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.13 General Building make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- Still not fully understanding what we are changing on this and why.

5.4.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- Still not fully understanding what we are changing and why.

5-30 Use Chart Storage of vehicles - minimum lot size of 3/4 acre

- What would qualify as storage of vehicles?

 

Chapter 6

6.3.2 Townhouse add 5 unit density max

- Is this 5 units per acre or is it 5 units in a single building. Either way, it is not necessary.  Lot coverage will dictate this.  Also, where did we land on 5 units?  Is it the right number to ensure coherent development or is it someone's personal preference?

add min heated floor area 1,000

- Why?  Shouldn't the market determine how many square feet buyers want to purchase?

increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

- Is there a need for this?  There are numerous 20' width floorplans for townhomes that are excellent.  A smaller width may be more accessible for lower income home buyers.

6.3.7 Mixed Use Building Require first floor non-residential

- This may be unrealistic.  I think a percentage requirement might be appropriate but there may not be a market for Mixed-Use or street level re

 

6.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- What does this mean?

6.4.4          B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

 

-          I’m not sure what this means?

Chapter 10

10.2.3 Neighborhood Compatibility delete all A buffers

- Why?

10.2.4 Buffers delete Type A buffer

- Why?

Chapter 12

Environmental Protection

12.1.2 A 4 Specimen Trees also include specimen trees on abutting properties with CRZ on property

- How will this be determined?

12.1.3 Tree Removal B.2 b specimen tree value, increase from $100 to amount TBD

- What is best practice here?

B.3 b removed without approval, increase from $1,000 to amount TBD

- What is best practice here?

12.1.6 Tree Replacement B. Calculation of Replacement Tree Density - delete 3" and 4"

- I support this change

C.1 Replacement tree size - replace 3 with 5

- I support this change

C.2 Understory tree size - replace 2 with 3

- I support this change

Chapter 13

13.1 Summary of Review Authority chart Move Preliminary Plat from PC to Council

Make all elements "Yes" on Web public notice

-          I think I’m fine with this but what is the level of effort from city staff?

Make all elements "Yes" on Published

- Where would these be published and what is the LOE from city staff?

13.3.4 A Published Notice notice of all 3 meetings (Neighborhood/PC/Public hearing)

published in Newspaper of Record at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          Is 30 days realistic?  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

 

13.3.4 B Web Notice also posted on website at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          Is 30 days realistic?  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

13.3.4 D Mailed Notice Increase 300 ft to 1000 ft and include notification of HOA of any subdivision

touched within that 1000 ft

Notice mailed at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          What is the increase in cost and is the 30 day period realistic.  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

13.4.6 C Neighborhood Presentation 2 delete "no minutes" - add: Record meeting and make public

add: follow format provided by staff

- This is a good suggestion.

13.4.6 F Council public hearing allow automatic deferral after PC without Council hearing or 65 day clock stops with applicant requested deferral??

- This is a good suggestion.

13.5.11 Preliminary Plat move all from PC to Council

- Why have a Planning Commission?

13.6.8 Notice (Major Design Plan) require notice posted on website (not just current DRB agenda)

-          This is a good suggestion.

13.6.12 A 1 Setback Modification reduce 20% reduction to 10%

- So, you’re increasing the setbacks by up to 300% (10’ to 40’ in some cases) but you’re allowing staff to have discretion on 4’.  As with everything suggested so far related to setbacks this is regressive, and plane insane.

13.7.10 Major Certificate Review HPC - any changes regardless of source or request must be submitted and available online 5 business days before mtg

- Still dealing with fallout from Vickers Village I guess.  I don’t really have a big problem with this suggestion but I’d like to know if other HPCs in the state adhere to this standard.

HPC - in the event of work sessions with applicant, such meetings must be held in a public room, be recorded and such recordings made available online.

- How many work sessions occur? Is this common practice in other HPCs? What is the level of effort for staff to make this happen?  This seems like it’s a bit burdensome.

13.9.2 Administrative Variances change all hard numbers to 10%

- Is 10% the right number?  What types of administrative variances have been historically granted?

13.11.2 A BZA authorized to approve add "up to 10% variance in addition to any variance granted by the Zoning Dir"

- Is 10% the right number?  What types of administrative variances have been historically granted?

2015 - What Happened in Roswell

In all, 2015 was a pretty amazing year for Roswell and much of North Fulton.  Walkability was in fact king in 2015 and I think it will continue to drive development in 2016.  We saw numerous developments and proposals work their way through the area that enhance walkability.  That said, not all change is welcome and there was a clear and expected negative response to a number of projects in 2015. 

The Riverwalk Village, Vickers Village and Sassafras projects received significant opposition and there was a notable cadre of ground troops that organized a fierce anti-density campaign that was quite successful if not always accurate.  This opposition came at an opportune time as our City Council elections occurred just as these three developments were working their way through the process.   Fortunate timing and significant legwork by the team that formed around the three winning candidates, Horton, Palermo and Zapata, resulted in a significant shakeup at City Hall.  

Now, before I get too far, I would like to say my peace on this.  I believe Horton, Palermo and Zapata will be fine stewards of our city and I believe they support walkability and building places people love.  I do think they collectively have a little to learn on what is necessary to build truly walkable and lovable places.  However, it's not rocket science and they will figure it out.  

One thing that troubled me was the amount of mis-information floating around about incumbents, the big controversial developments and the people behind those developments.  The number of Chinese Whispers flying around town was shameful.  I've heard that: 

  • Becky Wynn hates Roswell (She doesn't and I think we should leave the character assassinations to state and national politics.)
  • Rich Dippolito was in bed with the Sassafras developers (He wasn't)
  • The Sassafras developers were swindling widows to sell their property (They weren't)
  • Vickers Village is going to do all apartments (They aren't)
  • Sassafras was going to be a high density senior living facility (It wasn't)
  • Riverwalk Village would crush property values (NOTHING could be further from reality)
  • Sassafras is High Density (GREAT rhetoric but just not true.  5.2 units per acre is NOT HIGH DENSITY and even when they lowered it to 3.7, opposition continued to say it was high density.  If that's the case, then Roswell Green 4.8, Orchard Lake 3.3, Crabapple Lake & Parc 3.6, all subdivisions within walking distance of Sassafras, would probably fall into that "high density" bucket.)  

The list can go on but you probably get the point... A lot of mis-information was flowing out there...

I'm also puzzled by the the fierce opposition to developments like Vickers, Riverwalk and Sassafras that are truly groundbreaking for our city while other garbage developments continue to work their way through the process with little to no opposition.  We have several Townhome Without A Town developments that are steaming piles of monotony.  We should be killing those developments and welcoming unique projects like Vickers, 

Now that I've said that, let's get into the projects.

Riverwalk Village

We saw three different site plans for Riverwalk Village in 2015. Each one becoming more and more diluted than its predecessor.  Ultimately, the developers pulled the project.  We won't see this get realized and we are now poised for another 5+ years of nothing happen on that site.

Another great aspect of the plan was the early off ramp idea to get traffic off 400 before Holcomb Bridge and into the planned Riverwalk Village development got killed by GDOT due to 5 mph.  RDOT needed it to be 30 mph design speed and GDOT insisted on 35 mph.  Another good idea down the drain.

Vickers Village

Ultimately, Vickers Village had to shrink a bit and couldn't go to four stories.  They received approval in November and we will likely see construction start in late spring if things go as planned.  As of this writing, a few people are still trying to kill Vickers Village on technicalities which is unfortunate but expected given the amount of opposition this project saw throughout the process.  

They will need to go to a higher level appeals court though if they want to pursue it further.  Who knows, maybe the bid to derail Vickers will work but ultimately something mixed-use and walkable with 3 stories is going to eventually get built on that land and whether you like it or not, that is the right type of development for that spot.  An interesting fact on that property is that it has been zoned for 3 story development since the early 1970's.  

Goulding

image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

Goulding raped the land and that was shameful. That said, we did get a renovation of a historic home and road connectivity. I'm not sure it's worth the damage to the canopy but what's done is done and I always like to look for the positive.  

Surprisingly, 109 Goulding, pictured above, is already under contract which says something about Frontdoor's renovation job and their overall project plans given the ~$1.5 million price tag.  The single family houses are selling well with all three that are under construction reportedly already sold.  We'll see if the townhomes sell as robustly and only time will tell whether the project enhances the neighborhood. Personally, I think 10 years from now, this will grow into a very nice part of downtown Roswell.

Sasafrass

Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

We lost out on a very innovative development when Sasafrass died its ugly death. Ultimately, the developers killed the project due to a groundswell of opposition to 'high density' development.  The diversity of housing stock and the connectivity it offered were too unique to succeed. 

I really liked this one because it mixed housing types within the same development which creates much more of a natural neighborhood feel than standard tract home development.  I also really liked the fact that it cut one superblock into three smaller blocks and would have improved the walkability of a mostly car dependent area.

Roswell City Walk

image: Lennar Multifamily

image: Lennar Multifamily

The Roswell City Walk apartments finished up and are now almost full adding some slightly more affordable housing options to downtown Roswell.  There is no arguing the fact that this project is light years better than what was there before. I firmly believe that this project will be the catalyst that drives the redevelopment of the Southern Skillet property. 

Forrest Commons

image: Monte Hewett Homes

image: Monte Hewett Homes

Forrest Commons is wrapping up the foundation of the final building and should be complete and sold out sometime in 2016. 

Hill Street Commons

Just up the street from Forrest Commons is Hill Street Commons.  This project has pretty much wrapped up land preparation and looks ready to start building.  The sidewalks around the property look nice and wide and I'm sure the townhomes are going to be high quality.

City Green

City Green has been pretty much stalled in City Hall and there is some concern that the project may die as many don't think it is a priority of the new council. This would be a huge loss and a massive waste of time and money that has already been invested. More on this in a later post.

Southern Skillet  

There was finally some movement on the Roswell Plaza shopping center with the city purchasing the property for $4.8M. No plans have been made yet and there will definitely be some community involvement in the planning and ideation process.  To do this right, this will likely require 3-4 stories in areas and it will likely require some element of mixed-use residential over retail.

Roswell Antique Market

We got a good head fake from the Roswell Antique Market. The owners upped the rent and forced the antique market out. Word on the street is that we will see 24/7 paid parking at $5 a pop and another antique market to meet the insatiable demand for antiques from people willing to pay $5 for parking. So, rest easy Roswell, the most out of place building on Canton St will continue to live on. 

The Big Ketch

image: ajc.com

image: ajc.com

These guys, Southern Proper Hospitality, did a fantastic job opening up their second location of The Big Ketch.  The owners of the building, Flying Pig Capital, spent a lot of time and money purchasing and renovating the property adjacent to Osteria Mattone but did a spectacular renovation on the old home there.  They fired up the HPC along the way as expectations weren't aligned to the reality of how much of the original structure needed to be removed in order to pull off this renovation even though they were executing on what was originally approved by the HPC.  Ultimately, this was cleared up and the outcome was excellent. 

South Atlanta Street Apartment Building

City Council inexplicably killed an awesome little mixed use building that would have had 14 apartments over office and retail at the southern end of downtown. 

835 Mimosa & Dolvin House

Site plan for 835 Mimosa

Site plan for 835 Mimosa

Redevelopment of 835 Mimosa and the Dolvin House property on Bulloch was approved but the developer pulled out of the Dolvin project. One very resourceful concerned citizen even got President Carter to pen a letter opposing the development.  I'd love to see what was actually communicated to Jimmy about the project but that will probably never come to light.  It's too bad because this is exactly the type of smart, responsible infill development that can help preserve and enhance historic properties and districts.

View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

Bulloch Ave Pizza Parlor - Pizzeria Lucca

A new pizza parlor, Pizzeria Lucca, on Bulloch was approved and that project continues to progress.  The old building has been bulldozed and construction will start soon.  The owners have ambitious plans to be a world class pizzeria.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they cook up.

South Atlanta Street @ Big Creek

There was a GOD Awful apartment project proposed on South Atlanta St that thankfully was pulled.  To say that they didn't understand the area is putting it lightly. The name of the project was South Atlanta Street at Big Creek. They obviously didn't do their research on the name of that section of the creek. 

There is now a proposal in front of the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss townhomes in this spot instead of the originally proposed townhomes.  More to come on this project.

Vickery Falls

Vickery Falls was FINALLY resurrected. They are finishing the townhomes and building the condos with plans to add a retail building along South Atlanta Street.  This is a big win as that property has been sitting idle and incomplete for ~7 years. 

Village on Pine

The Village on Pine from Acadia Homes is wrapping up construction. It's nothing special in my opinion and missed several opportunities to enhance walkability in the area.  

UDC Connectivity Amendment

The lame duck council passed an amendment to the UDC that will enhance connectivity for future developments. In a city with fewer than 275 actual city blocks, any extra bit of connectivity added to the network is a plus.  This is a big win and will require at least a minimum level of connectivity for new developments.

Parkside at Strickland

image: Birghtwater Homes

image: Birghtwater Homes

Parkside at Strickland by Brightwater Homes is progressing and five or six of the 14 approved homes have been built.  I'm still irked that they didn't create a small block by opening having two entrances but I guess that aforementioned UDC Connectivity Amendment will address that issue for future developments.  They did add some great sidewalk and trail components to the project.

Parkside on Canton

Not to be confusing, another development with Parkside in the name, is going up on the north end of Canton St. Parkside on Canton will be Townhomes and flats and should start finishing up in mid 2016.  

Yet to Be Named Hwy 9 Elementary School

Just look at all those no parking signs.

Just look at all those no parking signs.

The new elementary school has opened to Esther Jackson students while EJE is renovated. The school looks nice if you can get past the 45 no parking signs and the chain link fence that surrounds the entire property. To say that this school missed the walkability boat is putting it lightly.

Brewery Mania

Three new breweries were announced in 2015 and a fourth pulled out.

Gate City Brewery took over the old Roswell Automotive spot behind Pastis and will start their buildout and facade renovations soon, assuming the feel like battling the gauntlet the city puts up to renovate anything in the historic district.. yes, even that corrugated metal siding building.

Abbey of the Holy Goats is putting the finishing touches on their spot off Old Roswell Road and their tasting room is starting to sound pretty good.

Variant Brewing was announced toward the end of 2015 with an expected opening in later 2016.  They plan to renovate a building along Norcross Street across from the Smith Plantation property.

Steady Hand was a short lived brewer proposal.  They proposed a pretty nice building along Green Street just behind the fire station but the application was pulled and I haven't heard the details.

Roswell High School Renovations

The facade at RHS got a much needed upgrade in 2015. I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the Hornets' march to the 6A football championship game but well designed architecture actually does impact one's state of mind.

The Walkability Grinch

I'm not sure why this property owner felt the need to do this but.. they did it.  What was a previously open walking path was fenced off and closed to anyone wanting to take an easy trek to Thumbs Up, Lucky's, Pure or even the bus stop.  Whoever decided that was a good idea gets the Walkability Grinch award.  

110 Woodstock (Watertower & Cemetery)

One of the most interesting development addresses in all of Roswell got started with land clearing in late 2015.  Being sandwiched between a watertower and a cemetery makes for giving easy directions to friends and visitors.  

1075 Canton St

This project received city council approval but I think there was a big miss from a connectivity standpoint.  But, it is definitely a good example of smart, responsible infill development that will update an empty historic building while adding homes behind it.

980 Canton Street

The Bill Plummer saga is through. He pulled his bid to bring his building to the street and create one new home over retail and bring in another restaurant which would have been an Ippolito's.  I wasn't a fan of the restaurant choice but I did like the building proposal.

Providence Phase 2

image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

Frontdoor Communities is wrapping up construction on the townhomes and single family homes that make up the second phase of Providence.  Take a walk down Webb St. and it's really amazing what has been done back there.

Long Circle Infill 

The Addition of four new single family homes on Long Circle is complete and they look great.  

East Roswell Library

The East Roswell Library opened in 2015. It's a super nice building but I think they missed the mark by setting it behind so much parking.  They should have brought it to Fouts Rd and put the parking along HBR to enhance the overall walkability and urbanism of the area.  

Alstead

Alstead by Weiland Homes finally came to life.  The original plans for the property, Centennial Walk, were much better as it was a true mixed use community but far to ambitious for that area. 

Fouts Road

A proposal to put in a cottage court development on Fouts Rd next to the Twelve Stones subdivision was approved but not without a fight.  This project is fantastic in my opinion as it adds a different housing stock, increases walkability around one of our city parks and creates a new city block.

The Radio Tower

The Radio tower went up in East Roswell Park and people flipped out.  

Townhomes Without A Town

We continue to see garbage Townhome Without A Town developments get proposed.  Fortunately, two that were proposed died in 2015 but one epic fail is now under construction off Old Roswell Road.  The Scott Rd project failed to get a rezoning approval but we may not have seen the end of that one.  The one along Hwy 9 across from North Fulton Hospital pulled its application.  However, the project that is under construction off Old Roswell Rd is the worst of the three.  

Storage Wars

We saw construction start on not one but two new storage facilities. Both east and west Roswell were able to get in on the action.

Sprouts

It was nice to see the old shopping center get a skin job and new anchor tenant.

Bull Sluice Trail Extension

 We finally received approval to extend the River Trail System all the way to the Chattahoochee Nature Center.  This is an AWESOME step in the right direction.  Construction on the new trail will start in 2016. 

Eves Rd Mixed Use Path

Eves Rd trail finished up and has added a much needed path along a highly trafficked road.

HBR/400 Interchange Updates

The city and GDOT finally got moving on some much needed updates to the interchange.  Construction is still active but should be wrapping up in early 2016

Sun Valley Connector

We finally committed to honoring our commitment to GM to build the connector.

East Roswell Park Connection

Much to the chagrin of some of our avid frisbee golfers, the city made a connection to East Roswell Park from Eves Rd making it easier to drive to the facilities at ERP from Eves Rd.  Given the completion of the new mixed use path along Eves Rd, I see this as yet another connectivity win.

2016

So, a lot happened in 2015 and I didn't even come close to covering everything.  There will be more proposals, more transportation projects and more controversies in 2016 and New Urban Roswell will continue to keep track of what's happening.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Mixed-Use Mania on GA400

The market for mixed-use along the 400 corridor continues to be hot.  There are at least four major projects in some state of the development process at the moment from Roswell to South Forsyth.  Avalon has obviously been a major hit  and readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of Riverwalk Village here in Roswell.  There is also the City Center development in downtown Alpharetta as well as the HALCYON project in South Forsyth at the McFarland exit.

The trend toward mixed-use along the 400 corridor dates back to the mid-aughts when Charlie Brown brought forward the East Roswell project.  There was also the Prospect Park project on the land that is now Avalon that notoriously died after the land was cleared and some of the concrete was laid  for the parking structure.  There have also been proposals floated at Windward (Windward Mill) and at Haynes Bridge (MetLife) that have not really made it too far as of this writing.  We also have the Riverwalk Village project that has been over a year in the making in Roswell.  It's now on it's third version of the site plan and could see more updates.  Finally, the HALCYON development designed by Lew Oliver is making headway in South Forsyth.  

Each of these projects is ushering in a new era for the northern metro area by bringing a more walkable environment to areas that have historically been drive-only.  None of them is a panacea of walkability in itself, but together, they certainly signal a change in our development pattern.  Additionally, Riverwalk and Avalon would both connect with MARTA rail if the Red Line extension becomes a reality.  To say this would be transformative would be an understatement.  On top of that, both Riverwalk and HALCYON would connect directly with the Big Creek Greenway which would be huge for pedestrian and cycling on the already popular trail (now if Alpharetta can just connect their piece to the Forsyth piece).

I wanted to take a look at the legitimate projects that are in play; Avalon, Riverwalk and HALCYON and also compare them to the two legacy projects that made it the furthest through the development process; Prospect Park and East Roswell (aka Charlie Brown).  All of these projects combine all or some of the following; residential, retail, office, hotel, civic, greenspace.  I'll compare each of them in those areas and some others.  Here's how they stack up.

Housing

The top billing here would have been Charlie Brown (aka East Roswell) coming in at 2,975 units (primarily condos).  Next up is Riverwalk Village's most recent proposal (their 3rd, it's hard to keep track) with 1,186 units, 300 of which are senior housing.  The smallest proposed was Prospect Park with 464.

One view of the Charlie Brown proposal.

One view of the Charlie Brown proposal.

Civic or Institutional

There really isn't much to talk about here for most of the developments.  Avalon will have a 45,000 sq ft conference center as part of its second phase and Riverwalk has signed an agreement with the Swift School which will be 200,000 sq ft.

Rendering of the Avalon Hotel and Convention Center.

Rendering of the Avalon Hotel and Convention Center.

Office

The first iteration of Riverwalk was truly gigantic with 1.7M sq ft of office proposed.  It has since reduced that down to a 350,000 sq ft which is the smallest of any of the developments on the list.  Next largest was Charlie Brown with 750,000 sq ft proposed.  Avalon will weigh in at 655,000 sq ft when complete.

Rendering of Avalon Phase 2 with office buildings and Avalon Hotel in the background.

Rendering of Avalon Phase 2 with office buildings and Avalon Hotel in the background.

Retail

Prospect Park would have reigned supreme here at 770,000 sq ft and Avalon has come closest to matching that at 590,000 sq ft.  The initial Riverwalk proposal was 17% smaller than Avalon at 490,000 sq ft.  They have reduced that to 155,000 sq ft which is about the size of one grocery anchored strip mall.  

Prospect Park's proposed central green in front of the hotel.

Prospect Park's proposed central green in front of the hotel.

Hotel

Finally we get to mention HALCYON. They plan 2 hotels but only one has a room number estimated and that is 110.  Avalon plans a 325 key full service hotel that will be run under the signature collection brand.  Riverwalk initially proposed a 200 key hotel that would have been the largest in Roswell but has since reduced that to a 150 key hotel which will be smaller than the Doubletree.  

Rendering of the central square and market area at HALCYON.

Rendering of the central square and market area at HALCYON.

Height

There is no competition here.  Charlie Brown proposed 13 low to mid-rise buildings with 4 of those being condo towers ranging from 24 to 27 stories.  The next closest is Avalon with a ~14 story office building (check that).  Riverwalk is proposing an 8 story hotel with all other buildings being 6 or fewer stories.

Not too many renderings are out there illustrating the overall height of the Charlie Brown proposal but this one seems to provide the best view.

Not too many renderings are out there illustrating the overall height of the Charlie Brown proposal but this one seems to provide the best view.

This rendering of Riverwalk provides some height context of what they are proposing around the central lake.  They have lowered their overall height request since these renderings were drawn so these buildings would likely be lower.

This rendering of Riverwalk provides some height context of what they are proposing around the central lake.  They have lowered their overall height request since these renderings were drawn so these buildings would likely be lower.

Here's the matrix to compare each of these in more detail.  Putting together this data was a challenge as old news stories were spliced together to form as complete of a picture as possible.  If there is any data that is incorrect, let me know and provide a source and I will update the matrix and the post.


Tis the Season... to Brew

The brewing space is getting busy in Roswell.  We could potentially have three brewers in Roswell in 2016.  Gate City would be tough to miss given their prime spot at the corner of Canton Street and Magnolia in the Old Roswell Automotive spot behind Pastis.  

Something is definitely brewing next to Pasti's in Historic Roswell.

Something is definitely brewing next to Pasti's in Historic Roswell.

You can find their beer, currently brewed in Woodstock at Reformation Brewery, at several establishments in and around Roswell and they should begin brewing in their home base before the year is up.  I've had several of their beers (I'm partial to Copperhead Amber) and they make a quality product.

Next up is the most interesting named of the three, Abbey of the Holy Goats.  Kathy Davis is behind this effort and they are planning to open in space near Mansell and Crossville.  This is a true passion project and Abbey has a cult like following around Canton Street.  They recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $32,000 from over 200 backers to help fund a specific piece of the buildout.  I've had several of the Abbey beers and they are quite tasty but the tripel was my favorite.  Here's their Kickstarter video...

Finally, there is Green Street Brewery (that may or may not be the actual name) which is being proposed for the empty gravel parking lot behind the fire station in Historic Roswell.  I don't know much about this one other than the building that was approved by HPC on 10/14/2015.  I'm definitely excited to see a quality building being proposed and the fact that it's a brewery helps too.  On a side note, I think Green Street may be in for some attention and this property may be a catalyst for that.

Front facade of Green Street Brewery

Front facade of Green Street Brewery

North Facade of the Restaurant/Brewery

North Facade of the Restaurant/Brewery

So, high quality local brewing looks to be coming to Roswell very soon and I'm pretty excited for it. Time to grab a beer!

Vickers Village 2.0

The latest illustrations of the evolution of Vickers Village were submitted to the city last month. They are still making some edits but they are narrowing in on what should be a final version to put in front of HPC.  They look nice and will result in a high quality product.  I can't wait to see this project finally get through these stages and into the construction phase.  

The view from Canton & Woodstock looks nice but I definitely miss the open plaza area from version 1.0.  The additional color is a nice addition.  One thing to point out about this point in the process on version 2.0 versus 1.0 is that 1.0 never made it to HPC to discuss architectural detailing and materials.

The view from Canton & Woodstock looks nice but I definitely miss the open plaza area from version 1.0.  The additional color is a nice addition.  One thing to point out about this point in the process on version 2.0 versus 1.0 is that 1.0 never made it to HPC to discuss architectural detailing and materials.

View from Canton Street looking west.

View from Canton Street looking west.

Looking at the building from Canton Street at Thompson Place.  They have added a small plaza here but not as significant or functional as the Vickers 1.0 plaza.

Looking at the building from Canton Street at Thompson Place.  They have added a small plaza here but not as significant or functional as the Vickers 1.0 plaza.

View from Thompson Pl looking north at the intersection of the new interior road.

View from Thompson Pl looking north at the intersection of the new interior road.

Looking east toward Canton Street on Thompson Place.  NOCA would be on the right.

Looking east toward Canton Street on Thompson Place.  NOCA would be on the right.

Woodstock Road looking south at the intersection of the new interior road.  I think that sidewalk crossing needs some more attention.

Woodstock Road looking south at the intersection of the new interior road.  I think that sidewalk crossing needs some more attention.

Current site plan for the Vickers Village 2.0 plans. 

Current site plan for the Vickers Village 2.0 plans. 

It's key to note that some of this may change and final design details are still being worked on.

A Little Facelift... 1099 Alpharetta St

It looks like 1099 Alpharetta Street could be getting a little facelift.  The proposal is going to be discussed at the Historic Preservation Commission Work Session this Thursday (11/5).  It's definitely a big change from the current building and a bit more modern than anything I've seen in the neighborhood.  My understanding is that it will be office space.

Current building at 1099 Alpharetta St.

Current building at 1099 Alpharetta St.

Front of new design facing Alpharetta St.

Front of new design facing Alpharetta St.

New facade facing Fraser St.

New facade facing Fraser St.

 

What New Urban Roswell Stands For... and Against

I've taken a lot of heat lately for my support of several developments that have attracted the ire of some.  I've been very vocal about the merits of Vickers Village and the proposed development at Chaffin and Hembree.  I've been mixed but more positive than negative on the Goulding development.  I've argued my point that these developments are good in the long run for Roswell.  All three of them increase connectivity, improve walkability, add unique housing stock and either mix housing types or mix uses.  These are all critical components of building truly walkable cities and we need them everywhere not just in the historic district.

The Facebook world has gotten interesting (I guess it always has been) with some serious and not-so-serious debates going on.  Some have called me out as a hypocrite and a fake for daring to drive my car.  Do I support building a more walkable city where we all can make fewer trips by car?  Yes.  Does that mean that I have to walk everywhere I go?  That doesn't seem reasonable to me and Historic Roswell isn't exactly a walker's paradise yet.

I've been told to move out of Roswell because I referenced developments outside of Roswell that I think are remarkable.  I think everyone has been to places or seen places that they would like to see emulated in some way in their hometown.  Places that aren't Roswell that I really like: Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Charleston, Savannah, Serenbe, The Waters, Hampstead Village, Vickery Village, Virginia Highlands, Grant Park...

I believe I have stayed consistent in my message but I want to clarify.  New Urban Roswell exists to bring attention to good and bad development while poking some fun at some of the ridiculousness that finds its way into the built environment.

Here's what New Urban Roswell stands for.

  1. The Charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism - "We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy." Read the full charter
  2. Building More Walkable Neighborhoods that Reduce Our Dependence on Cars - New development should have connectivity requirements and give people the opportunity to walk or bike for at least some of their daily needs.
  3. Mixed-Use Development - Where appropriate, new development should have a mix of uses either vertical or horizontal.
  4. Quality Architecture - High quality architecture should be a requirement regardless of the type of building.  There is far too much garbage that gets built in this world and I view architecture as one of the most lasting and influential art forms.  I understand that not every development will be of Lew Oliver quality but that is my gold standard for our city and ultimately is my measuring stick.
  5. Supporting the Expansion of MARTA Rail into North Fulton - It's time.  Even if funding were secured and the effort started today, we wouldn't see a station at Holcomb Bridge for another 8-10 years. It's time to get started.
  6. Adding Street and Trail Connectivity - Building more connections will make getting around our city a more pleasurable experience by car, bike or foot.  Adding trails along our creek beds and continuing to complete our Roswell Loop network should be top priorities for the city.
  7. Narrow lanes and Safe Streets - Narrow lanes make streets safer.  We should adopt a 10.5' maximum lane width for any street with residential uses.  Additionally, we should adopt a 25mph speed limit for any street with residential uses and offer exceptions for some streets to 30mph.
  8. Quality Zoning - The UDC is a step in the right direction. It by no means gets every parcel right.  We should continue to move toward more of a form based code.
  9. Historic District Master Plan - This city should have a master plan for the historic district.  The DPZ plan was accepted but not adopted.  We need to go further.
  10. City Green and Pocket Parks - The City Green should be built and placed as a top priority.  I also support having a pocket park within a 10 minute walk of every home in Roswell.  We have plenty of large destination parks but not nearly enough of the Sloan Street variety.
  11. Hiring a Town Architect - Our design by committee approach is a bit much.  There are far too many chefs in the kitchen when projects are discussed. Staff, Planning Commission, Design Review Board, Historic Preservation Commission and City Council could be involved in design guidance and in some cases mandates for projects.  A town architect would help drive coherence and consistency in the process and outcomes.

So, that's a solid list of what New Urban Roswell stands for. Now, there are some things that New Urban Roswell stands firmly against. I've heard, read and seen far too much hyperbole, misinformation, conjecture and flat out untruth about the developments I've supported.  There has also been a great deal of libel tossed out about the people behind the developments as well as the the people who represent our city on the city council.  I don't stand for that and I also don't stand for the following:

  1. Sprawl - Inefficient use of land is, quite frankly, shameful and I firmly stand against it.  I loved a comment from someone on my Facebook page that we don't need "urban sprawl" like the Chaffin/Hembree development.  I'd like to point out that you live in "urban sprawl" and that the Chaffin/Hembree development is actually less sprawling than the surrounding area and it's exactly the type of 'urbanism' that helps address the ills of "urban sprawl."
  2. Single-Use Subdivisions - We need to build a mix of uses into our places.  Otherwise, we continue to perpetuate the sprawling, car-culture that creates the mess we live in.
  3. Monocultures of Housing Types - Any single-use subdivision that lacks a diversity of housing types is a monoculture that adds nothing to the unique character of our or any other city.  What they do effectively do is make the production process easier and faster so that developers and builders can get in and get out quickly. 
  4. Townhomes Without Towns - Townhomes have a place.  They can shape streets in great mixed-use neighborhoods.  They can accentuate neighborhoods with a mix of housing types.  However, they should never be stand alone subdivisions inserted on a parcel for the sole intent of maximizing the residential yield of a property.  This happens way too much in Roswell.
  5. Gated Subdivisions - Yes, I live in one and would take the gates and fences down if it were up to me.  That said, they cut off connectivity and create dead zones and superblocks that hinder walkability and good urbanism.
  6. Cul-de-sacs - We have over 1300 Cul-de-sacs or Dead Ends in Roswell.  This is a significant contributor to our notoriously bad traffic because of a lack of connectivity between neighborhoods.  Cul-de-sacs should be allowed where geographically appropriate but nowhere else. 
  7. Uninformed Opinions Masquerading as Fact - It's okay to oppose something because you don't like it or to oppose something because there is factual data to support your decision.  However, opinions masquerading as fact are non-starters in my book.  If you say something will kill property values, prove it.  If you say a development will cause additional traffic, tell me how much.  If you say a new development will lower your quality of life, umm... you may want to reevaluate some things.
  8. Redundant and Unnecessary Road Signs - I almost forgot my Stop the Madness campaign. We need to rid our city of all the ridiculous and unnecessary signs that are polluting our landscape.  

So, there you have it.  I'm in favor of building more lovable places with a diverse mix of housing types and uses that are safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians where people don't have to get in their cars to live their lives.