Overlay Text Amendments 6/20/13

The BPCA supports the recent changes to the Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District zoning code initiated by the City of Brookhaven’s Planning Department and approved by the City Council.  Here is a brief analysis of the individual components.

TextAmend1

The change here is the addition of the word “average” before “elevation of the finished sidewalk.”  This is to define the measurement of building height where the road slopes pronouncedly while the building maintains constant floor levels.  Alta Brookhaven on Dresden Drive is a good example.

TextAmend2

This is a detailed and clear definition of “second story.”  The previous code version did not define exactly what constituted a second story, thereby leaving it up to the Planning Director to interpret.  This allowed certain developers—Walgreen’s, for example—to try to “game” the requirement and argue that a mechanical and storage popup on the roof of a one-story building constituted a “second story.” The new definition ensures that designers must comply with the original intent of the Overlay.

TextAmend3

The original Overlay code version did not specify parking requirements for restaurants, leaving it up to interpretation as to whether they were “commercial” or “retail.”  Neither the commercial or retail requirement is adequate for restaurants, and we can see the potential effects along Dresden where multiple restaurants have opened with minimal parking capacity.  Additionally, in most districts of Brookhaven’s Zoning Code (inherited from DeKalb County), restaurants are allowed to add patio or outdoor space up to 50% of their indoor floor area without increasing parking capacity.  The theory has been that people either sit inside or out—not both.  However, this is patently untrue as we can see at Hudson Grille and Mellow Mushroom, thereby allowing restaurants a 50% expansion without providing additional parking.

 This amendment addresses both issues and ensures that new developments will provide parking better matched to actual use.

TextAmend4

This amendment allows businesses to have sidewalk signs, and carefully spells out their size, material and location.

TextAmend5

This is a rather subtle legal distinction geared to strengthening the City’s argument that residential density is not specified in the Overlay language, and therefore the underlying zoning district establishes it.  Effectively, this means that new projects along Peachtree in C-1 districts (think Hastings site) will have to apply for a Special Land Use Permit or for rezoning of the underlying zoning district if they want to include housing in their development. While clearly not the intent of the Overlay, which intends to entitle property for mixed-use, this interpretation does allow additional public input and review.  The public input and review period often encourages developers to put forward their best effort and think more deeply about public space aspects of their projects.

TextAmend7

This text amendment is a key change from BPCA’s perspective.  Section 27-915 lists zoning provisions which cannot be waived or altered by variance.  Previously, the second floor requirement could be waived by the Zoning Board of Appeals through a developer’s variance request—as was the case with the new veterinary clinic going up next to General Hardware.  This is no longer possible.