By John Schaffner

After a year of work with consultants and public review meetings, legislation for a proposed overlay district designed to provide a blueprint for development of the Village area of Buckhead has been redirected.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development is requiring a new round of stakeholder meetings and public hearings this month.

The SPI-9 (Special Public Interest) District Overlay Update project, which set standards for types of development, green space, streetscapes, parking, and other requirements for Buckhead Village, has been overseen by the Buckhead Community Improvement District and the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Authority for more than a year.

After the legislation was submitted to City Council for approval, the Planning Department and city legal staff determined the legislation should be changed to establish a stand-alone zoning district, rather than simply updating the previous zoning and development regulations.

Demise Starling, who has headed up the new SPI-9 overlay project as executive director of the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association, said this will require changes that will need additional public process and stakeholder input and will impact the ordinance’s final form. But she said it would ultimately better serve the needs of the Buckhead Village district. Meetings were held with stakeholders Nov. 2-12 and public meetings were to be scheduled for the last week in November or the first week in December.

Following the completion of the community’s work on the SPI-9 ordinance in May, the draft ordinance and Design Review Committee resolution were submitted in June to the City’s planning staff for review—anticipating a July-August review and City Council adoption. Instead, city staff requested that the overlay district ordinance be incorporated into a stand-alone zoning district. The city’s rationale for this change was to simplify the zoning code and streamline its administration for impacted owners.

According to Starling, the stand-alone district concept will eliminate the multiple layers of requirements that currently apply to parcels in the Village by consolidating them into a single zoning district. She said the change does not amend current zoning entitlements in the SPI-9 Overlay area incorporated in the proposed ordinance. “This approach will incorporate everything in the current draft SPI-9 ordinance into a single set of regulations that will eliminate undue complexity and simplify administration of the ordinance,” Starling said.

The steering committee established by the CID and BATMA for the project heard a report Oct. 13 from consultants about changing from an overlay update to stand-alone district and supported moving forward with the change. However, several issues were raised at that meeting which will be aired during the stakeholder and public meetings.

Among them are:

–There was a question as to whether a residential parcel west of Roswell Road and north of East Andrews should be added to the district. The staff was to contact the Grant Estate, owners of the property, to see if they would like to be included, but the process may move forward without that parcel. It might be rezoned to SPI-9 when a redevelopment plan is proposed for the parcel.

–The city and consultant staff need to confirm which parcels carry zoning conditions and which, if any, conditions should remain after the rezoning to SPI-9.

–As part of the procedures, an option should be added to change/update base floor area ratios consistent with a rezoning, a process that should not “lock in” a base FAR with no ability to change in the future.

–Height limitations should be maintained as a factor related to developer bonuses and transfers but not to base FAR. Therefore, redevelopment height limit rights, based on existing FAR, should not be restricted by new standards.

–A transitional buffer should be considered within the district to protect smaller existing structures.

Starling also said the SPI-12 overlay district in Buckhead will be converted to a stand-alone district. SPI-12 covers the area on both sides of Peachtree Road between Piedmont and Roxboro roads and including Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls.