By John Schaffner

The major discussion at the September meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B didn’t involve the usual zoning issues or liquor license approvals on the agenda.

The main discussion Sept. 4 centered around lane closures on Piedmont Road that are sure to disrupt traffic for the next two weeks and a “historic” house in Garden Hills, where Lakeside meets Demorest, that literally disappeared overnight. No one knew the house was going away, much less what will replace it, if anything.

Oh, and the other major announcement was that NPU-B is being evicted from its meeting space at the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church and needs to find a new meeting place for 2008.

A parade of representatives of the city’s Department of Watershed Management had their 1 or 2 minutes of glory at the NPU meeting, but the one that caught everyone’s attention was the announcement that starting Sept. 10 one lane of Piedmont Road each side of the median strip would be closed between Pharr Road and Darlington for about two weeks.

Without much elaboration, the Watershed Management representative said this work would be done in two phases, which suggests there may be another two-week lane closure. In fact, it seems that just about everything Watershed Management does takes two weeks, except digging tunnels, which take years and, of course, are running behind schedule and over the estimated costs.

For example, Watershed Management also plans to do some of what they call “lateral replacements” (sewer lines that apparently extend from homes to the street) on Acorn and Forrest Way. You guessed it, this apparently will inconvenience people on those streets for about two weeks.

NPU-B Board member Bill Murray asked Zoning Committee Chair Anthony Nievera if he knew anything about what had happened to the “historic” house on the Duck Pond in the Garden Hills neighborhood.

Nievera said he had received a lot of phone calls as the house was being torn down and sent one of his crews by there to check on what was going on. He said the property owner had a demolition permit, which set off a discussion of city permitting procedures.

Board member Cathy Muzzy said a homeowner can do what he wants with the house as long as he does it within the law. In other words, if he tears down a single family home and replaces it with a single family home, he does not have to come before the NPU to do it.

The NPU’s city planner, Jessica Lavandier, told the group the owner has to show plans for what they intend to replace the house with in order to get a demolition permit. However, that apparently can be a very rough concept and the owner is not bound by any timeframe for building the replacement.

Board member Nancy Bliwise, who lives in the Pine Hills neighborhood said there are several examples in her neighborhood of empty lots or partially completed homes where demolition permits were issued years ago for homes that were torn down and replacements have yet to be completed.