Buford Hwy T-5 Rezoning
There has been a lot of confusing information about this topic that I would like to clear up, explain why we are working on updating the T5 zoning district and the timing of it.
Many years ago the city created a form based LCC (Livable Community Code) which was applied to the Assembly Redevelopment, and the intent was to later apply it to both sides of Buford Highway. The form based T-5 code has urban design standards in it, which you can see the results of in the new Metro City Bank. It also covers transit and other things important to a pedestrian friendly city. It’s what most developers today prefer to work with, and the city ends up with a much better product.
Unfortunately when they attempted to rezone Buford Hwy, someone read the zoning ordinance incorrectly, and used the allowed use chart for T5 zoning in SD-1 (Special District 1, which is the GM/Assembly Redevelopment) instead of the chart for T5 “Non-SD-1”. It was a mistake IMHO to have these two zoning categories labeled the same, as this resulted in misinformation being spread about what this T-5 zoning was, and a petition was created based on this incorrect information. The whole thing took on a life of its own and the council at the time decided to only rezone one side of the road. So now we have one zoning district on one side of Buford Hwy and a totally different type on the other. At that time the allowed uses were similar, if the same.
This key thing for residents to understand is: T-5 zoning has a building height restriction of 6 stories but also is further restricted to 2 stories when near residential. It then can gently increase in height, in a stair step fashion, as it moves away from the property line at a 45 degree angle into the zone.
The C2 zoning currently in place allows for a 10 story building near the property line with no restrictions to height near residential, which is the opposite of what residents who signed that petition were told. It also has: no design standards, does not allow residential or mixed use and encourages old style “sea of asphalt” strip mall type developments.
This area is located in the District 2 (Northwoods) area of the city and I expected someone from that district to take the leadership role on moving the rezoning forward. It clearly would take some education of the residents in their district, as well as consensus building within the council, to get this done. We discussed this as a body at the city council retreat, but no one on the council took the lead on moving this forward past a short discussion, where we all said “I’m OK with that”. During my short time on the council I have learned, that is not enough to get something done.
This spring we did a rewrite of C1/C2 which includes all of Buford Hwy, other than the city hall side inside the perimeter. We spent a lot of time figuring out allowed uses by right, with the goal of reducing the number of uses that required a conditional use permit, which discourages business. We also created a good list of uses we didn’t want in our city, such as vape shops and hookah lounges.
We came up with a great use chart for C1/C2 and I feel we made some huge improvements. But we didn’t think or ever discuss the city hall side of Buford Hwy. No one, including me, mentioned “Hey, we now need to update the use chart in the T5 zoning.” As such, a whole list of things we don’t want in the city could happen right across the street. We actually went through a rewrite of the OW/OI zoning without anyone mentioning this problem.
I blame myself as much as anyone for not seeing this, but once I realized it, I didn’t wait any longer for a District 2 representative to step forward, and put an item on the agenda August 5th to instruct staff to move forward as quickly as possible fixing this loophole in our T5 zoning. It then only made sense, if we are holding public meetings on this T-5 zoning issue, to also go ahead and instruct them to fix the problem with the other side of Buford Hwy at the same time.
Again, what initially prompted me to bring this forward as suddenly as I did, was when I realized this giant loophole we had left in our zoning. We likely will be putting a moratorium on these uses in T-5 for 120 days until we can clean this up. This should be fairly simple to do, as all the study about the uses was recently done when we rewrote C1/C2. It should be a simple cut and paste between the use charts. I actually hope we will be able to rezone Buford Hwy the same on the outside of 285 if not now, very soon in the future.
The final thing I want to clear up is: I did this because I want to protect the city and this is something we need to take care of ASAP. I have no interest in the politics nor am I pandering for votes. I’m not up for election for another 2 years and haven’t even decided if I want to run yet. It would be a mistake for us to drag this out and leave this loophole in our zoning open, when we already know what we want from our recent C1/C2 rewrite. I seriously hate this is going to be used politically, but I can’t control that. I can only do what I know is best for Doraville.
Stephe Koontz, Doraville City Council District 3
678-373-7021 City Cell