By Jessica Thomas

After being turned down by both Neighborhood Planning Units C and A, Grayco Partners, LLC took its amended site plan and case for rezoning 5.338 acres at 3200 Downwood Circle N.W. before Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board (ZRB) on April 3. The result was the same: denial by the ZRB.

The next step, according to Grayco’s local attorney, Pete Hendricks, is for the proposed plan to go before the city’s Zoning Committee on April 30 and then before the Atlanta City Council on May 5.

Hendricks pointed out that the staff in the city Planning Department has recommended approval of the plans. He said there were about 40 people at the ZRB meeting who opposed the plans and about a dozen in support of Grayco’s proposal.

At its April 1 meeting, Neighborhood Planning Unit-A (NPU-A) echoed the rejection made by Buckhead’s NPU-C in March to the amended site plan presented by Grayco Partners. Four members of NPU-A voted to deny, one abstained, and one member voted to approve the new site plan.

Grayco Partners wanted to rezone the Downwood Circle property from OI-C (office institutional/community business) to RG-4, (residential general for multi-family dwelling units).

Since 1991, the property has been zoned to allow for both residential, at 300,000 sq. ft, and office development, at 300,000 sq. ft, said acting NPU-A chair Ray Mock.

Grayco’s proposal calls for two five-story structures with 260 units and underground parking. The one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments would range in size from 850 sq. ft. to 1,950 sq. ft. with an average rental cost of $2,000 a month, Hendricks said.

NPU-C Chair, Eric Ranney, as well as two members of NPU-C attended the NPU-A meeting to share their opposition of the plan presented by Grayco.

“NPU-C requests the denial of this plan by NPU-A,” Ranney said, citing intrusion by the proposed development on existing homes as well as increased traffic congestion in the area and potential strain on the already filled-to-capacity Morris Brandon Elementary School.

He noted, however, that if the developer agreed to construct a taller building rather than more sprawling apartments, NPU-C would accept that. With the current zoning of the land, the law allows for a maximum building height of nine stories on the property.

But if a nine-story building was to be constructed, it would have to be concrete.

Concrete structures are more expensive to build. Thus, in order to fund the construction, ultimately the development will have to be condos, he said. The developer does not want to build with concrete, Mock said.

Mock, the lone individual who voted to approve Grayco’s amended site plan, said in the long run it is better for the community to go ahead and approve this plan than one in the future that will no doubt, be bigger in scope and scale.

“They are down-zoning the property from 600,000 to 374,000 square feet,” he said. “We should accept the property at this lower density and then we won’t have to revisit this issue in five or 10 years when the proposed development is bigger.”

Mock also pointed out that approving the plan could potentially provide relief for existing sewers in the area, since there is an opportunity for the project to initiate sewer improvements by the city and for the developer to pay some of the cost for those improvements.

It was no shock to anyone that Grayco went ahead with its scheduled April 3 hearing before the ZRB.

“They have passed a point of no return with this,” said Mock following the April 1 vote by NPU-A. “They are going to go forward.”