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Zoom Block Meetings - Recap

Over 200 neighbors attended their block meetings from these streets:

Upper Avery, Lower Avery, Inman Circle, Avery @ Piedmont , Piedmont, The Prado, South Prado, Big Westminster, Peachtree Circle, Park Lane E&W, 15th Street, Colony/Hanover House, Golf Circle, The Villa, Beverly, Little Westminster, Yonah, Barksdale, Maddox, Ansley Drive, Montgomery Ferry, Polo, 17th Street, Westchester Square.

Here are some of their comments:

- “Ansley Park is changing too fast, it is losing its charm and we need to do something before it’s too late”. He asks what are the next steps?

- One neighbor said a friend, who is a realtor, told her that her house is worth more as a tear down than an existing house. She asked if that would still be the case if she were to renovate, and was told that the numbers just don’t make sense. It’s not worth the investment for the rate of return. She then listed 5 other houses on Avery that would probably also be torn down were they to go on the market. How can they save their houses?

- A neighbor said they feel that the City is being too lenient with variances and code enforcement. She wonders how it is possible for developers to clear cut lots and seemingly build over the 50% lot coverage. She’s lived in AP since 1985 in four different houses and sees the charm slipping away.

- One suggested we look at what Telluride, CO has done with their Historic District. They have four categories and each has its own parameters for construction. Realtors there are versed about each category and inform prospective buyers of what exactly they can change. We checked with Doug Young in the Atlanta Urban Design Committee, Atlanta has only two categories Contributing and Non-contributing. While he could see the value of the four categories, he was afraid it could get too complicated for the commission when looking at each districts custom rules and regulations.

- Someone asked what else besides Historic/Landmark Designation can the neighborhood do to fight coming zoning changes? We suggested writing to City Council, going to NPU-E meetings, monitoring the Dept of Zoning on COA website for press releases and attending zoning board hearings.

- A resident at Ansley at Piedmont said that the neighborhood needs to act immediately. We should hire lawyers to fight prospective changes. We explained the beauty of Historic/Landmark designation was that residents could come together to craft regulations eliminating the need for legal battles with the city.

- Neighbors wanted to know next steps and want to help more. Click Here to sign up for a Working Group

- A new resident said the best part of Ansley Park is the community. It is unique in Atlanta and includes young and old.

- The group from Peachtree Circle was concerned over construction on Prado/Peachtree Circle - noted how all trees were cleared and digging happened at lot line rather than in building envelope. Don’t understand lack of enforcement of existing zoning rules.

- Concerned about loss of historic houses and losing National Registry Status. Click Here to read about how Ansley Park has benefitted from the National Registry of Historic Places status.

- A neighbor told the group how the Civic Association was able to use National Registry status when negotiating 17th Street bridge deal with Atlantic Station and was able to get money for traffic calming because of it. Click here to read more.

- Another neighbor suggested that a custom overlay might be an easier sell than overlay through Historic/Landmark designation because of opposition in 1991. We met with Caleb Racicot – we wrote the Poncey-Highland Historic District Overlay & his firm was hired by the city to do the Zoning ordinance re-write – A custom overlay is possible, it can do many of the things a historic/landmark overlay can do except it can not prevent demolition, it would not supercede Beltline Overlay Zoning and it could not address trees or landscaping. For more info on this meeting Click Here

- Another commented that we should be aware that, as a neighborhood, we have the most power before the elections in November. We should be getting Jennifer Ide & city council in our corner.

- Group asked what are next steps?

- How can they help? Sign up to join a working group.

- Suggest we reach out to Tom Branch.

- Group says they have seen a lot of change and are supportive of preservation.

- One suggested contacting a Georgia Tech student for help when/if it comes time to write Historic/Landmark regulations.

- A neighbor said that much of the new development is positive for the neighborhood. We told him there is room for new infill with H/L designation.

- Someone suggested checking with the Cherokee Library for history/old photos of Ansley Park.

- A homeowner is concerned that residents in apartments, condos, etc. would get to dictate what he can do with his house. (Survey Results were broken down by demographics to spot trends) He wants to be able to do what he wants.

- He dislikes the way previous lots were split ie. The Byrd house on the Prado was knocked down & two houses put in its place, on The Prado, it’s interior was listed as 10 most beautiful rooms in an important publication.

- He says it’s possible to put a facade easement on only the front facade, someone else agreed. We met with Easements Atlanta – unfortunately, a façade easement must cover the entire building envelope to qualify for a one-time Federal tax credit. You cannot demolish the exterior but it is possible to build a rear addition – click here to learn more about Façade Easements.

- A 15th Street neighbor doesn’t want regulations on his house.

- One says there are no examples of bad new infill in Ansley Park and expensive tear downs mean owners have a lot of money so the new house will be better.

- A neighbor lamented about losing the small houses. She says they have one they rent out but it feels selfish to keep it small when so many people need somewhere to live.

- An historic architect neighbor agrees Historic/Landmark overlay can be very flexible and can benefit our neighborhood and that it is important to protect our historic resources.

- He also mentioned that the Preservation ordinance is being rewritten?? We hadn’t heard that and it has not been confirmed.

- One resident says he supports historic/landmark designation but he’s afraid we’re hearing the same arguments that people made in 1991. We reiterated how flexible of a zoning tool h/l designation can be and there is a way to create a solution people can agree on.

- Questions were: what is the downside of Landmark?

- Many residents had not taken survey , intended to ASAP.

- Attendees from lower Inman Circle, Golf Circle & the Villa seemed to be behind the effort.

- some of the concerns and trying to "get ahead of the curve" and getting people to talk and ask questions.

- While most were supportive of continuing to work on this, the big issue will be what kinds of restrictions will be included in the proposed solution?

- Beverly group sees lots of changes in the neighborhood. They have had to deal with the horrible contractor who owned two renovation properties, one had to be torn down.

- Beverly neighbors don’t see good zoning enforcement and are afraid of bad infill.

- Beverly road is also a mess and needs to be repaved.

- One observed, the strong market has more people wanting to buy in AP. They are spending more money and building bigger houses.

- Another added these bigger houses waste energy and strain the environment.

- A neighbor reminded us that “Climate Change is the next battle of our time and people need to be aware and using best practices”.

- An architect says to be careful to ensure regulations are objective not subjective. He has seen that lead to infighting with neighbors in Druid Hills. DH’s strict regulations have resulted in mediocre design in new infill. Strict regulations can stifle creativity in design.

- A long-time resident says she remembers the last time Ansley Park tried this and the fighting over traffic calming. She is skeptical that neighbors would do something for the “greater good” but she hopes they will.

- Another has noticed that builder’s rights seam to trump resident’s rights. She doesn’t like that new builds on either side built to the setbacks and she no longer has light on either side of her house.

- People say enforcement is an issue. With H/L designation the enforcement on the front end is different, it goes through a different channel but in either case the enforcement in the field are the same city inspectors.

- Many are concerned about the tree canopy and the lots being clear cut.

- Another sent before/after photos of Prado/PTC – before it was clear-cut and after.

- One says, it’s so important to protect trees and parks, but make sure that building regulations are not too strict.

- A neighbor says we need to better communicate with neighbors. She suggested an ENews blast with links to rest of the block meetings (this was sent out the next day) and suggests we simplify our message and instructions for neighbors.

- People said they wanted APF signs - others said to wait until community decided to nominate.

- Another said we need to act quickly as we are losing our historic houses. Once they are gone, they are gone.

- A neighbor was concerned about demolitions and how it effects run-off, drainage and tree canopy. He is two doors down from Prado/PTC and has mud in his basement because of that project.

- Doesn’t understand why builders can do anything they want. Where is the city and why is there no enforcement of rules?

- A neighbor with a contemporary house asked if HD/LD was in place would there be an opportunity for houses like hers to be built? We said yes, there will still be room for new development, that AP is a collection of styles and moderns/contemporaries can fit in. Thanks to Poncey-Highlands Contemporary forms can be included in H/L districts. HD/LD would make sure new houses fit in scale & density with neighborhood.

- Another said the demolitions of historic houses are happening too fast and we need to act now to stop it. She also said she would wrap her Neel Reid house in bubble wrap if it kept it from being torn down but would be concerned about ability to expand bathrooms later. H/L Designation could allow partial demolition as long as front façade is preserved and a façade easement would not allow for exterior demolition but would allow a rear addition.

- Someone asked what are next steps how can neighbor’s help preserve AP?

- One talked about Ansley Park’s crumbling infrastructure. She and other neighbors have flooding because another neighbor’s renovation pierced a storm drain. That neighbor had demolished a house that was his parents & has plans to build new house. It is being held up because the city is making him find a storm drain that runs through his property. The City will not let him start building until he finds the storm drain & the city has said that they do not take care of storm drains. They are responsibility of home owners.

- Others suggest AP gets a Georgia Tech student to map the storm drains.

- A new resident says he moved here because of tree canopy and historic character, important to preserve.

- A neighbor asked if HD/LD regulations would be very strict and regulate paint color, material etc.? We said that it does not need to be that strict and the neighborhood would guide regulations.

- People think it is important to publish survey results and neighbor’s comments.

- A neighbor suggested we talk to Steve Nygren, who is a former AP resident who lived in Ten Eyck’s house on 17th. He developed the overlay that created Serenbe and could be very helpful in the community engagement piece and to learn how they were able to compromise to address different concerns (she sent subsequent email and will help make introduction). She also said she will reach out to her Ansley real estate client list and ask them to take survey.

- A neighbor complimented us on web site, saying it gives a good overview and was easy to follow and understand.

- He thinks the historic houses are important because they give AP a sense of place.

- Someone asked about threshold for voting, procedure, and enforcement? We will research & report on the voting rules if/when we get to that stage, enforcement in the field are the same city employees that inspect in non-historic districts.

- Another said she was involved with the vote for traffic calming and can fill us in on who is included/ threshold etc and she would also like to connect us to Greg Paxton, he was head of Georgia Trust for 28 years and lived in AP but now lives in Maine, she thinks he would be a great resource.

- One neighbor said she has taken such good care of her 1920 house and would hate to see it torn down to build something bigger.

- A noted developer said AP is so special and he has marveled that our house values aren’t higher than they are considering our proximity to Piedmont Park, Arts Center etc. He compared us to Bronxville in New York but we are closer to the city. He said to keep values up it will be so important to keep our mostly single-family residential nature, our parks, tree canopy and neighborhood feel.

- A long-time resident talked about changes in the neighborhood. She likes the diversity in architecture but is afraid that loss of historic and small houses will cause AP to lose the values of our community.

- One noticed new construction often seemingly exceeds 50% lot coverage and looks out of scale with neighboring houses.

- Others noted that we are in the epicenter of the city with million dollar lots and are afraid developers are being allowed to "slap up” new infill as they please.

- A new neighbor said that it doesn’t make economic sense to renovate some houses, for example he looked at the one that was knocked down at Inman/17th Street circle. It was on the market for 900k and he said it would need one million dollars to renovate and if someone were to sell it they would only make $200,000.

- Another neighbor said she looked at the same house and believes it could have been renovated for $100,000 and been perfectly habitable for someone looking for a smaller house that didn’t need all top-of-the-line finishes.

- The new neighbor also said that Ansley Park’s platting patterns are completely different than when AP was first developed. He said the houses next door to him were a result of split lots and now they have no garages and no place to park. We disagreed that the platting pattern has changed very much from 1934 except for the lots that were split /merged after demolitions.

- One neighbor walked over to the lot at Peachtree Circle/Prado to show how it was clear cut of trees, 55 trees were removed.

- People asked about procedure & next steps.

- A neighbor asked about ADU’s - hasn’t this already happened? We explained that it had happened, and pointed out how it affects parking requirements, lot coverage, & now two dwellings were permitted per lot - talked about other proposed changes from planning. IDU’s etc Click Here to read ordinance.

- Another resident says she does not like the tone of Ansley Park Forever that we are going against the Mayor and Tim Keane's good plans for the city to address the real problems of density and the need for affordable housing. We responded that we were not commenting on whether these changes are good or bad but want to bring awareness about how these changes would affect our neighborhood and how many of the new regulations would be city wide. While they might be amazing for underdeveloped neighborhoods, they could bring some unwanted change to developed neighborhoods. Click Here to read responses to Atlanta City Design proposals.

- One said she is afraid that historic/landmark designation would only make it harder for residents to renovate their houses with more rules to comply to, more hoops to jump through, more time spent, while making it easier for developers to do what they want. We explained we thought the opposite was true & discussed the Urban Design Commission procedure.

- A new neighbor on Beverly came from another town in Georgia. She said she had just started a house renovation when her neighborhood got historic designation. She said the experience was “beyond positive”. Her neighborhood had a packet that clearly detailed building & addition procedures and they helped her get tax credits. She recommends AP do that for residents if H/L designation is adopted.

- Another said it is important for AP to address the RG-3 lots being built up on Piedmont. He cited the new condos that are going up behind his house tower over him, stealing all light and privacy and have caused water and mud run-off into his and his neighbor’s yards. He recommends a walking tour to bring people into his backyard so they can see for themselves what could happen when a lot is over built. Walking tours are on the schedule, Sign up HERE.

- People asked about voting procedure and enforcement. We will research & report on the voting rules if/when we get to that stage, enforcement in the field are the same city employees that inspect in non-historic districts.

- Another commented that this is so much work for only 10 people to be doing and wants to help. Please sign up for various working groups or email us if you’d like to help.


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