By John Schaffner

Buckhead’s three neighborhood planning units (NPUs) share a common position on the city’s proposed Planned Development Conservation Subdivision ordinance: The premise is good, but it doesn’t achieve that goal.

At the December meetings of the citizen review organizations, NPUs A and C rejected the ordinance on unanimous votes, and NPU-B deferred it.

City planner Jessica Lavandier assured NPU-B that the ordinance would not move through the system because of the recognized need to address problems with the draft.

Though NPUs A and C formally voted against the ordinance, both boards backed the premise: to address situations in which a developer establishes a right under the city’s subdivision ordinance to create a specific number of residential lots on a site that is partially unbuildable or environmentally sensitive.

The three NPU boards indicated that the ordinance needs more consideration than is possible before the end of the year. They said the wording of the ordinance must be tightened to protect existing neighborhoods.

The NPU boards fear that the proposed ordinance provides incentives to increase density on problem sites.

Eric Ranney, the chairman of NPU-C, said he likens the ordinance to PD-H (planned development housing) zoning: “I call it draw-your-own zoning.”

A list of comments drawn up to be sent to the city’s Bureau of Planning states, “The draft ordinance is not, as claimed, density neutral and actually permits greater density than current law allows.” It states that the ordinance does not achieve the “density neutral” objective “because it determines the maximum number of lots allowed simply by dividing the gross area of the property by the minimum lot square footage required by the underlying R district for the property.”

The intent of the ordinance is to allow for clustering of homes in one area of a tract of at least 2 acres while protecting the remaining undevelopable area as common green space.

Ranney echoed the concerns of representatives in all three Buckhead NPUs in worrying that the ordinance has no minimum square footage for houses and “could be used to chop up residential neighborhoods.”

He called the ordinance a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” during NPU-C’s Dec. 3 meeting.

As NPU-A did at its meeting Dec. 2, NPU-C voted unanimously to oppose the ordinance. But the board submitted a list of recommended changes if it moves ahead.

A primary concern of the NPUs is that the ordinance does not provide adequate protection for homes on adjacent properties from the impact of clustered houses. The sentiment is that when houses are clustered, the concentration of buildings, activities and noise can harm nearby property values and quality of life.

NPU-B’s board of directors voted to defer consideration of the ordinance to allow additional comment from all the NPUs. But members of its board voiced serious concerns about aspects of the ordinance at both the November and December meetings.