By John Schaffner

After more than two years of work by consultants, public shareholder input and reviews and changes by the city’s Planning Department, the Atlanta City Council has adopted legislation settling 20 years of debate over development standards and densities in the heart of Buckhead.

According to those who have carried the ball for the updates for Special Public Interest District 9 (SPI-9), the unanimous council vote Oct. 4 reflected a consensus of city planners, neighborhoods and developers once thought impossible.

“Colleagues, with your vote you have just built a city,” Councilman Howard Shook of Buckhead’s District 7 told the members of the Zoning Committee after they approved the legislation. “It’s going to take a while for this recession to get out of the way, but when this starts to emerge from the ground, you will be very proud of the vote you just cast.”

Formerly known as Buckhead Village, the center of Buckhead, with its dense development rights, had long generated competing visions of how to best build it out and was a source of tension between city planners, elected officials, neighborhood leaders, commercial property owners and the development community.

The Buckhead Action Committee, a small group representing Atlanta’s Department of Planning, City Council, the neighborhoods and business community, began the formal process of searching for a mutually acceptable blueprint more than two years ago.

As longtime neighborhood leader Sally Silver put it, “The first thing that needed to be built was a better relationship between those with passionate but conflicting views.” Silver, a longtime chair of the Development & Transportation Committee of Neighborhood Planning Unit B (NPU-B), played a major role in the plan’s development.

At the end of the process, the new SPI-9 zoning plan provides for both new office and residential towers and a more pedestrian-scale space reflecting back to the historic dimensions of the old Buckhead Village and the intersection of Peachtree and Roswell roads.

“Although property owners retain their overall density rights,” noted David Allman, Chairman of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, “the new standards allow and encourage the creation of coordinated high- and low-rise nodes where desirable to the affected stakeholders.”

In a press release issued by the City Council’s Office of Communication, Allman explained, “Upon build-out, people will be able to live, work and play in an urban community featuring wide, tree-lined sidewalks, inviting building facades and lush pocket parks.”

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.