By Amy Wenk

The residents of northwest Buckhead again turned thumbs down to an apartment development on a 5.5-acre plot along Downwood Circle, located between Northside Parkway and Howell Mill Road.

Neighborhood Planning Unit C (NPU-C) March 4 denied the request from Grayco Partners, LLC to rezone property at 3200 Downwood Circle NW from OI-C (office institutional/community business) to RG-4 (residential general for multi-family dwelling units).

Even though the Texas real estate firm presented a revised proposal for a 260-unit apartment complex that would encroach less on neighboring properties, NPU-C denied the request 132-0. Since 1991, the property has been zoned for a mix of residential (300,000 sq. ft) and office development (300,000 sq. ft).

The Grayco team presented every aspect of the revised proposal, including site plan, architecture, hydrology issues and traffic impact, during the three-hour meeting. Attorney Pete Hendricks explained the changes Grayco made since the Jan. 2 meeting when NPU-C previously opposed the plan.

Coined the “Podium Plan,” the revised proposal calls for two five-story structures with 260 units and underground parking. The one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments would range in size from 850 to 1,950 sq. ft with a montly average rental rate of $2,000.

The previous plan called for a 280-unit apartment complex, spread among several facilities and a freestanding parking garage.

Many community members spoke against the request, citing traffic concerns, and potential strain on an already overcrowded Morris Branden Elementary School. Grayco representatives said it is estimated only 5 to 8 percent of residents would have school-age children, resulting in the addition of around 13 to 15 children into the school system. However, this did little to calm the audience.

NPU-C Chair Eric Ranney also called into question traffic data provided by Ed Ellis of the Grayco team. Estimated traffic generation to and from the complex is roughly 1,558 trips per day. Ellis said this is significantly lower than if a medical office was constructed on the site, estimating such a development would generate 12,402 daily trips or 4,672 daily trips if a general office building was constructed.

David Blum, an attorney who represents several of the affected neighborhood associations, argued in opposition, specifically citing the repercussions of the RG-4 zoning. Since surrounding areas have low-density R-G classifications, Blum said rezoning to RG-4 would reduce zoning protections in the area, setting a “bad precedent for the neighborhood.”

One way in which the Podium Plan lessens zoning protections is its reduction of required green space as compared to existing zoning. The present site plan requires a minimum of 100 feet between the building and the property line. In contrast, the Podium Plan places buildings within 60 feet of the property line. Despite NPU opposition, the applicant is scheduled to go before the Zoning Review Board on April 3 to obtain a recommendation to the Atlanta City Council.