By Joe Earle

The Atlanta zoning review board narrowly voted to recommend approval of high-density apartments on Colonial Homes Drive despite strong neighborhood opposition.

The board voted 5-4 June 10 to recommend approval of Pope and Land Enterprises’ plans to build 177 to 202 more units at 240 Colonial Homes Drive N.W. On June 1, NPU-C, a neighborhood planning organization, voted 84-2 to recommend Pope and Land’s proposal be denied.

“We are not deterred at all now,” resident Pam Masters, who lives in the nearby Arborgate community, said after the board’s vote.

Masters said residents would begin lobbying Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean to “explain the negative effect this will have on our community.”

The rezoning request is scheduled to be considered July 14 by Atlanta City Council’s zoning committee and then July 19 by the full council.

Pope and Lane originally requested a change in the zoning on two areas within Colonial Homes. The apartment complex, which was built in 1947, is divided into five parcels. Three of the parcels lie in the flood plain, so no apartments can be added there. After residents attacked the first plan, Pope and Lane scaled back its request to rezoning of a single tract.

Neighbors said they objected to the new proposal, for a five-story apartment building, because the development would increase traffic and flooding problems in the area.

“Flooding is an issue in our neighborhood,” Roger Moister, representing NPU-C, told members of the zoning review board. “I’ve lived there 32 years. It wasn’t when I moved in, but it is now.”

NPU-C residents argued that under terms of Atlanta’s BeltLine plan, the developers should be required to eliminate apartments on several of the tracts that flood in order to be allowed to build more units on areas that do not flood.

The BeltLine Subarea 7 Master Plan, they argue, says that any development in the area of Colonial Homes outside the flood plain should be balanced by creation of additional green space.

“The master plan is very clear that the goal is not to add more units at Colonial Homes, but to allow increased density along newly created green space,” Eric Ranney, land use committee chairman for NPU-C, said in a prepared statement released at the June 1 meeting. “In this way, the flooding and traffic burdens created by the additional upland units are ameliorated by the concomitant reductions in traffic and increases in flood capacity resulting from the newly created green space in the flood plain.”

The statement said the developer was “unwilling to remove even a single unit” in the flood plain.

The developer, the statement said, “wants the benefits proposed by the master plan, but does not want is burdens. This is not permissible, nor is it acceptable.”

Moister told the zoning review board the neighborhood believes the city requires any increase in development in one area of Colonial Homes must be tied to the creation of green space in another.

“If you want to go up on one side, you’ve got to go down on the other side,” he said. “If you want to make it high density, it’s a swap. It’s an overall exchange.”

Carl Westmoreland, lawyer for Pope and Land, said the developer disagrees.

“This is pretty simple, I think,” Westmoreland told the zoning review board. “Our position is we’re consistent with all city policies and city plans.”

The developers already have spent $3.5 million improving the existing Colonial Homes apartments, he said. “To spend money and then say, ‘You’ve got to the take them down if you want to build elsewhere’ – I don’t think that makes much sense,” he told the zoning review board.

The proposed development in the area outside the flood plain could help reduce flooding in the overall area, he said, because the developers would be required to build a retention pond that would slow the flow of water during periods of heavy rain. “Will it solve the problem? No. But it obviously will be better,” he said.