By C. Julia Nelson

The Atlanta city ordinance proposing that basements and attics be included in floor area ratios (FAR) calculated for residentially zoned properties is not faring well with Buckhead neighborhood associations.

During a regular meeting of the Neighborhood Planning Unit-B (NPU-B) on June 5 at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, Jessica Lavandier, a planner with the City of Atlanta, explained the proposed Residential Housing Scale ordinance would make FARs inclusive of both attic and basement spaces on new builds and some renovations.

“What is being counted toward your FAR is changing; we’re including more things,” Lavandier said. “What happens right now is that the basements don’t have to be included in the FAR calculations and now a portion of the basement that could be counted as living space is going to be counted in the FAR.”

Sally Silver, leading the meeting in the absence of chair Jeff Shell, said when an existing house is demolished, anything built in its place would be impacted by the proposed ordinance.

Existing houses will not be impacted with this ordinance, except in the case of some renovations. The ordinance prohibits the expansion of the footprints of existing structures relative to basement renovations as well as increasing of the existing height of the highest point of the main structure’s ridgeline relative to attic renovations.

NPU-B voted against the proposal, 17-6 with one abstention.

The predominant objection resonated with points eight and nine of the nine-part ordinance requiring that future builds and/or renovations to existing homes be included in the FAR calculation. Representatives of various neighborhood associations made no attempt to hide their reservations about the recalculated FAR and restrictions on attic and basement renovations.

Corey Richardson, a representative and resident of the Peachtree Hills said he and his neighbors are adamantly opposed to the passage of this ordinance, particularly parts eight and nine.

“Don’t limit our ability to renovate our existing homes,” Richardson said. “If you have a small lot, you’re destined to have a small house under this deal. It greatly impacts the value of my house.”

Other elements of the proposed ordinance include the calculation of FARs for R-1 to R-5 using the net lot area; all residential zoning categories to share uniform regulations of maximum lot coverage and FARs; a new definition of duplexes; additional criteria on R-5 relative to site configuration; wall and fence number and height regulations; main level floor height regulations on new homes and maximum height regulations also on new homes.

The Atlanta Zoning Review Board will visit this issue at a special public hearing on Thursday, June 28 at 6:00 p.m. in city council chambers, located in City Hall South at 55 Trinity Ave. SW. Members of the city council zoning committee will discuss it on Wednesday, July 11 at 11:00 a.m. in committee room 2 at city hall. Then on Monday, July 16 at 1:00 p.m. the Atlanta City Council will visit the issue, also in council chambers.

In other business, the NPU-B reviewed a list of non-functioning fire hydrants and voted unanimously to support a consent listing of several zoning variance requests as well as an amendment regulating the use of digital signage.

“There’s new (digital) technology regarding changing copy on signs/billboards,” Lavandier said. “We’re amending the ordinance to reflect that changing technology and regulate the frequency (of changes), how bright it can be and designating it as a traffic hazard so the Bureau of Planning and the Bureau of Building can regulate these signs.”

The Sign Ordinance will also regulate display type and other features where changing signs will not constitute a traffic hazard. The original ordinance legalizing such signs passed in May 2006 but was limited to signs on state highways.

Stephanie Thomas reported that the Public Safety Committee approved four cases – two requests for liquor permits, at JW Marriott in Buckhead and at Sit The Experience at Lindberg Plaza East and two were for upcoming events: the July 4 celebration at Lenox Square and the Pool Hall’s 61st Anniversary Party on July 14. The committee report received unanimous approval.

Deanne Titus, Public Information Manager of the Department of Watershed Management advised the group that as of July 1, water and sewer rates will increase by 10 percent. She also said ongoing sewer rehabilitation projects will require several road closures and detours. Affected sites may be viewed at a new traffic web site: