The developer of a proposed mixed-use project including a hotel and restaurants at 11 Ravinia Parkway was dealt a surprise when the Dunwoody City Council voted unanimously Sept. 9 to send their plans back to the Planning Commission for further vetting.
Councilmember Jim Riticher made the motion to essentially start the rezoning process for the proposed project from square one. He said it appeared the Planning Commission and City Council were considering vastly different projects and he wanted the Planning Commission to have the same information the council did as part of its considerations. Council members did not discuss the vote further.
The vote caught the development team by surprise. They arrived at the meeting ready to discuss their plans as part of the second and final presentation of their rezoning request. The council heard the first presentation of the rezoning request last month.
“We had no idea,” Kathy Zickert, attorney for GMC Real Estate Acquisitions, said in a brief interview when asked about the council’s vote.
“No one mentioned it at the city. We feel a little blindsided,” she said.
The developer is seeking to rezone approximately 4 acres of undeveloped land at the Ashford-Dunwoody Road and I-285 intersection.
The proposed project includes an InterContinental Hotels Group 8-story boutique hotel with 275 rooms at between 140,000 to 150,000 square feet; 12,500 square feet of shops; 30,000 square feet of restaurants; a parking deck; and streetscape amenities.
Questions from the council during GMC Real Estate Acquisition’s first presentation in August ranged from tree loss to stormwater drainage to potential impacts of the I-285 toll lane project on the proposed development.
There were also several questions about pedestrian and bicycle connectivity on Ashford-Dunwoody Road as well as how the proposed development could impact the city’s long-talked about “westside connector.”
The “westside connector” calls for constructing a distributor ramp to provide access between I-285 to Perimeter Center Parkway, eliminating the existing “weaving problem” on Ashford-Dunwoody Road between I-285 and Hammond Drive, according to city officials. A multiuse trail is also planned to be part of the project to provide pedestrian connectivity across Ashford-Dunwoody Road.
In an interview, Riticher said the proposed project in front of the City Council was much different than the one the Planning Commission voted in July to recommend approval.
“There were some fairly significant differences between what they [the Planning Commission] were presented and what we were presented,” Riticher said in an interview.
Riticher did not elaborate specifically on what those differences were, but indicated there were some discrepancies on zoning conditions and right-of-way access that became apparent at last month’s meeting.
“What the developer told the Planning Commission they would do was different than what they told us what they would do,” Riticher said.
Community Development Director Richard McLeod said he learned a few hours before the meeting that the council planned to send the proposed project back to the Planning Commission. Sending the project back to the Planning Commission means the developer has to start the approximate 4-month rezoning process all over.
When asked what differences there were between what the Planning Commission reviewed and what the council reviewed, McLeod said the Planning Commission did not have a traffic study as part of its review of the project. The City Council did have a traffic study completed in time for the first read. He could not comment further on the council’s vote.