Greg Hill and his wife chanced upon a flier announcing a community planning session for their north Buckhead neighborhood. They decided to check it out.
So, one recent Saturday morning, they joined about two dozen of their neighbors in an elementary school gym/auditorium to talk about what north Buckhead should be like in 25 years or so.
“We’re always complaining about traffic,” Hill said. “We don’t like to be complainers. We like to be fixers. This is an opportunity to get involved.”
Hill seemed impressed by what he heard and saw as members of the North Buckhead Civic Association met with planners for a three-hour discussion Aug. 16 at Sarah Smith Elementary’s Intermediate Campus.
“I think it’s a great way to inform the community of what’s going on, and also to get great input from people who are invested in the community,” Hill said. “There’s a lot going on, and a small group of people seem to be doing all the legwork.”
Residents gathered around tables for discussions on Roswell Road, Piedmont and Peachtree roads, transportation, parks and the neighborhood’s residential core. Residents debated traffic problems and issues with future development, and drew colorful lines on maps as part of a process through which the North Buckhead association intends to develop a long-range plan for the community.
The finished plan will be adopted by the association and then given to Atlanta city officials for approval by the city, planners said. A draft of the plan is to be presented in a public meeting Sept. 30 at St. James United Methodist
During discussions Aug. 16, residents identified places that might be used as future parks, proposed a trail or sidewalk system to connect the existing parks and the North Buckhead neighborhood to Chastain Park, and outlined areas where future development needed controls.
“I really think this master plan process is going to put Roswell Road on the map,” said Sally Silver, a Buckhead resident who works with Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook. “It’s like the red-headed stepchild out here. Peachtree and Piedmont getting taken care of … but from the Buckhead Village to the city line, it’s a hodgepodge.
“If something doesn’t happen soon, it’s going to be one of those places no one goes because you can’t get anywhere,” Silver said.
Residents also proposed converting parking garage roofs to green spaces and convincing the city or neighbors to develop new parks in the community.
North Buckhead association president Gordon Certain mapped a triangular parcel he said was cut off by surrounding homes and could not be developed. “It’s just trees,” he said. “Nobody can get there [by road], but if we could [make it a park], it would be really cool.”
Some residents worried about the pace of development in Buckhead. Graham Carter, for instance, questioned whether his father could afford the increase in taxes if his home were zoned commercial. He said planners needed to take care with how they propose changes to older neighborhoods now near high-rises.
“This area is sensitive,” Carter said, and a substantial increase in real estate taxes “would say you effectively taxed him out of his home. That would be counter to what historically this neighborhood association has wanted to do, to build into a study like this the means to stick it to people who have lived there 40 years.”
Other residents called for measures to slow down traffic, improve crosswalks and sidewalks, and to protect the community’s trees.
“The fact you have neighborhoods so green, so forested within a few blocks of downtown densities is remarkable,” senior planner Caleb Racicot of planners and architecture firm TSW told the residents.
Hill welcomed the proposals he heard, especially about the PATH400 trail now being built along Ga. 400. He had seen signs of the construction, he said, “but now I know where it goes.
“I’m going to have buy a bike,” he said, “because I’ve got somewhere to ride it.”