A proposal to allow “tiny houses” in all residential lots in the city was among several zoning changes proposed at a April 11 meeting.
The change would be an expansion of last year’s change that allowed tiny houses on R-5 lots, which are zoned for duplexes.
The proposed change is part of phase two of “quick fixes” the city wants to make the zoning ordinance. Phase one zoning changes, which included new bicycle and sidewalk requirements, were presented last year and are being considered by the Atlanta City Council. The changes are easy fixes the city can make to improve the ordinance while it waits for a full rewrite that will come in three to five years, consultants said.
The units, which would be less than 750 square feet, can provide extra income for a homeowner, new housing options and more affordable rents than large apartment buildings, the consultants leading the meeting said.
“Tiny houses are a national conversation that is really happening all over the country,” said Aaron Fortner, a consultant at Canvas Planning, a firm working with the city on the changes.
The change would allow much more of Buckhead to build an accessory dwelling unit on their property. The previous ordinance only allowed them in R-5 zoning districts, which are more prevalent in other areas of the city like Grant Park and Old Fourth Ward, although they are in some neighborhoods in Buckhead, including Pine Hills and Peachtree Park.
“This will be a great help in promoting diversity on many levels,” said a resident who attended the meeting, which was held at Trinity Presbyterian Church. About 50 residents attended.
Another applauded the idea for being a way to add additional housing while maintaining the character of the neighborhood.
However, some residents expressed some concern that the change could increase the amount of Airbnb and other short-term rentals.
“Can you make sure accessory structures do not become “secret” commercial units, where owners rent them out surreptitiously?” one resident said.
Fortner said that is unlikely. “Guest houses,” which are similar to the accessory dwelling units, are already permitted. The only difference is they can’t have a kitchen, so if people want to rent small houses on their property, they already can use guest houses, he said.
Airbnb rentals and other rentals like it are already prohibited in city code, but they are still prevalent in some neighborhoods. The city wants to find a better way to enforce the laws against them, Fortner said.
“Every city in the country is trying to figure that out,” he said.
Other changes proposed are meant to protect neighborhood character, consultants said.
One would establish some design codes in R-4 and R-5 districts, which have smaller lots, including requiring new houses to have porches and stoops when they exist on 50 percent or more existing houses on the block. It would also require street-facing doors and windows.
The only design controls neighborhoods have right now are establishing a historic district, said Caleb Racicot, a consultant.
Another would strengthen the transitional height plane requirements, which require that a new building not be an extreme amount taller than the building next to it. The requirements protect low-density areas from new high-density construction, Racicot said.
“Love this. Transitional height plane is very important to protecting existing historic homes,” one resident said.
Another change would lower the amount of parking developers are required to build. It would also cap the amount of parking allowed near MARTA stations to encourage other types of development, Racicot said. However, the changes are the same or similar to the Buckhead Parking Overlay District passed last year, so nothing would change in Buckhead, Racicot said.
Consultants presented a change that would stop developers from building big box retail and hotels in industrial zoned lots, which is currently allowed.
“That type of development can destabilize industrial areas,” Racicot said. “The city must have viable industrial districts that are purely industrial use.”
The city will host open houses on the changes over the next month, including two in Buckhead. Both will be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Road, on April 18 and May 7 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
For more information, visit zoningatl.com