Bureau of Buildings reinterprets pool rules

The city of Atlanta for years has allowed homeowners to install swimming pools in yards next to streets without zoning variances, despite a city ordinance explicitly requiring a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Now that policy has changed.

Residents of Neighborhood Planning Unit A (NPU-A) repeatedly complained to the city Bureau of Buildings that pools were being approved without going through the NPU process.

NPU-A board member Linda Trower said no one was trying to prevent pools from being built, only to require homeowners to work with their neighbors to address any concerns.

The city zoning ordinance bars pools, tennis courts and other active recreation facilities in yards adjacent to streets in residential districts unless there’s no other reasonable site on the lot, and the location must “not be objectionable to occupants of neighboring property or to neighborhood in general by reasoning of noise, lights or concentration of persons or vehicular traffic.”

The ordinance offers no situation in which pools may be built in those locations without a special zoning exception.

But Ibrahim Maslamani, the director of the Bureau of Buildings, said the zoning review staff applied an unwritten interpretation inherited from the previous administration: If a yard was at a different height from the street, even by 1 foot, no zoning exception was necessary.

“Based on this previous interpretation, the City approved many swimming pools or other recreational uses in yards adjacent to streets without any real basis in the zoning code,” Maslamani wrote Dec. 31 in an e-mail to Trower.

Maslamani said he was ending that interpretation. Not only will future plans for pools in street-side yards be required to go through the NPU process and get zoning exceptions, but some approved but incomplete pools might have to go through the process as well.

City Council gets tough on false alarms

The Atlanta City Council has gotten tough on people who have repeated false alarms at their homes or businesses and has passed legislation that will fine continual violators as much as $1,000 for causing police or fire personnel to come unnecessarily to their property.

Officials said about 93 percent of all emergency calls are not valid alarms.

First-time violators will simply get a warning. But persistent violators will be fined.