Decatur Planning Commission approves smaller parking spaces for Publix-anchored mixed use project
By Cathi Harris, contributor
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Decatur Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of two exceptions to parking space dimensions for a new apartment building planned for North Arcadia Avenue near the intersection with East Ponce de Leon.
As previously reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, apartment developer Toll Brothers recently purchased three acres of the almost 10-acre mixed-use Gateway Decatur development. The Decatur City Commission approved zoning for the project last year.
The residential part of the project will consist of a 290-unit apartment complex at the edge of the property that wraps around a “hidden” six-level parking deck in the interior. The development would be anchored by a Publix grocery store.
Toll Brothers is asking the city to grant an exception to the standard parking space dimensions from the 9 feet by 20 feet space required by the city’s development ordinance to a slightly smaller 9 feet by 18 feet. They also want to increase the number of allowed compact vehicle spaces from 73 to 103.
The exceptions would allow the deck to be built using pre-cast concrete components, which are commonly used in this type of development, the developer’s attorney, Dennis Webb, told city planning commissioners. A custom-built concrete deck would be significantly more expensive and would likely need to be larger than the deck that is currently planned.
Due to the unusual shape of the property and the limitations imposed by the apartments’ location close to the street, an increase in the size of the parking deck would mean that space would have to be taken from the open walkways and greenspace that are part of the apartments’ design, he added.
Standard parking space sizes in other jurisdictions, including DeKalb and the City of Atlanta, are smaller than Decatur’s and the custom concrete component parts are designed with those smaller spaces in mind.
“The Cortland Decatur project [at the Avondale MARTA station] also has 9 by 18 spaces and is similar in design to what is planned here,” Webb said. “You will see this in higher-end developments all over the city.”
The exception is not needed to allow the development to meet the minimum number of spaces required by the city, Planning Commission Chair Harold Buckley noted during discussion of the application.
“In my experience, when there are ‘bad actors’ seeking this kind of variance it is because they need to make the parking minimums, but that is not the case here,” he said.
The deck plan calls for 411 parking spaces for the 290 units, which exceeds the minimum required parking of one space per unit and allows for a significant amount of guest parking.
In making the motion to recommend approval of the application, commission member Lori Leland-Kirk noted that it met the ordinance’s exception requirements in that it would have no negative impact on nearby properties.
The vote to recommend approval of the application was 6-0, with commission member Mike Travis abstaining due to a professional relationship with the project. Travis also did not participate in the members’ discussion of the project in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
The developer’s application must now be approved by the City Commission, which will consider it at its next meeting on October 21.