There is a rezoning battle that is coming up on Monday at City Hall and NO, it's not the UDC. It's actually probably not much of a battle but it piqued my interest. To me, it illustrates just how ridiculous our whole zoning process really is. The lot in question at 1270 Strickland Rd, pictured below, is actually quite a beautiful lot. It unfortunately abuts some ugly industrial lots to the north but that said, it has some charm.
We have a developer, Brightwater Homes of Sandy Springs, that is looking to build homes on the 5 acre parcel. Given the current R-2 zoning, they would be able to build 14 single family units. They are looking for a reclassification to give the parcel a R-2 Conservation subdivision classification. The change would allow 15 homes on smaller lots while also conserving 1.79 acres as greenspace. Additionally, the developer plans to put a walking trail on the greenspace for residents of the new homes.
There are obvious technical differences in the classifications but come on... 1 additional home on some smaller lots?? I say that if it makes sense, looks nice and will have a positive impact on the city, then we should allow it. But, it's never that easy and the opposition was out for the August Planning Commisison Meeting. The notes were a bit long and a number of neighbors voiced their concerns, some valid in my opinion and some not so valid. I've summarized and added commentary to several.
- Reductions in Set-backs - One resident feels that the request to reduce the building set-backs will reduce the natural beauty of the parcel. Well, putting 14 or 15 homes on that parcel is going to degrade it regardless. If it is going to be developed, it should be designed to be the most walkable as possible and the further homes are from the street, the less walkable the environment.
- Traffic (ALWAYS A CONCERN, RARELY AN ISSUE) - A point was made that the size of the neighborhood is increasing by 50% from 30 to 45 residences and this will cause problems at the Prospect St and Hwy 9 intersection. I'm not sure I'm buying this. Of course, there may be some additional traffic but it's not going to be catastrophic. Is that intersection ackward? Yes. Should that be rationale to deny one extra home? No
- Our Children Won't Be Safe!! - Some other concerns were voiced that the increase in car volume coupled with the non-cul-de-sac design would potentially pose a danger to the children in the neighborhood. What poses a danger to the children in the neighborhood is actually the straight-away design of Valley Dr with lanes that are as wide as the lanes on GA400. Lane width is a major determinent of the safety of a residential or city street. The wider, the more dangerous. A small block is no more or less dangerous than a cul-de-sac.
- Nothing is Being Saved - The argument was posed that the site layout would not change much regardless of the zoning type because most of what is being conserved in the Conservation Subdivision plan is in the floodplain. Point taken but there is something being gained in the form of a walking path and increased walkability in the site plan.
All that said, the Planing Commission has recommended that the change request be denied and the city council is voting on it this Monday 9/9. The Planning Commission commentary centered around these points:
- Conservation Subdivision vs Standard Zoning - They seemed to like the conservation aspect but had difficulty weighing the consequences of rezoning. The trail was a hit but some concerns were voiced about maintenance, public access and security.
- Why Not Fewer Lots with Bigger Homes? - This was the argument that seemed to be the deal killer. Most of the commission members thought that fewer homes would be a better fit for the neighborhood.
My opinion is that the R-2 Conservation Subdivision site plan with 15 lots provides for a more walkable design. I do take exception to the 12' lane widths which are wholly unnecessary for this type of road regardless of what the DOT and Fire Department tell you but that's a whole different story. The jury is still out on whether the architecture will amount to much of anything. You be the judge.
R-2 Site Plan
R-2 Conservation Subdivision Site Plan