An empty corner lot in the leafy Garden Hills neighborhood of Buckhead continues to agitate nearby residents who fear a redevelopment plan will change the neighborhood’s character. Now the dispute may head to an appeal in court.

Plans for a 5,000-square-foot house at the intersection of Pine Tree Drive and North Hills Drive have been the subject of complaints since builders applied for a variance from the City of Atlanta’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) last year.

The lot at Pine Tree Drive and North Hills Drive. (Kevin C. Madigan)

At issue is a request for a 17.5-foot front-yard setback instead of the traditional 35 feet. Additionally, the BZA had determined that a variance is not even needed because it is a “regular” lot.

A second appeal by a group of residents Jan. 9 in front of the BZA found in favor of the applicant, a contractor working on behalf of owners identified in city documents as David and Amanda Parrilli. The BZA again determined that a building permit for the site can be issued.

“My clients are considering appealing this decision to Fulton Superior Court,” said attorney Lawton Jordan in an email. Lawton represents a number of Garden Hills residents who are fiercely opposed to the construction.  On Jan. 7, Lawton appeared before the Neighborhood Planning Unit B to update the group on the situation, calling the applicant’s request to the BZA “a very cynical misuse of the process.”

Blake Builders, contracted for construction of the project, is owned by Russell Blake. He said in a phone interview that the owners of the property are not asking for anything out of the ordinary and he expects a building permit to be issued in due course.

The dispute revolves around how setbacks are calculated on a corner lot.

George Heery represents Garden Hills in the NPU-B and is on the board of the neighborhood’s civic association. “The BZA is basically saying that the applicant has his rights under zoning to build whatever he wants to build,” he said in a phone interview. “We don’t agree with that, and it really comes down to whether the lot is a regular lot or an irregular lot.”

Heery is among those who think it is irregular and should adhere to the setbacks of adjacent properties. The house, if it’s constructed, would be 20 to 25 feet closer to the street than any of the surrounding houses, all of which are 40-plus feet away, according to Heery, “and that really would hurt the historic character of our neighborhood.”

“I know there has been some pushback against the plan,” said Sally Silver, an aide to City Councilmember Howard Shook of District 7, which includes Garden Hills. “This house will be set back 17-and-a-half feet instead of what the other houses are and it will obviously stick out like a sore thumb.”

Last year, NPU-B voted to recommend denial of the application, with NPU chair Nancy Bliwise saying the plan could “radically change the character of the neighborhood.”

–Kevin C. Madigan