Avondale Estates City Commission reviews changes to draft zoning code rewrite
Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission is in the process of rewriting the city’s zoning code. The board has discussed this at multiple meetings and continued the conversation during the May 26 work session to talk about the recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Board.
At previous meetings the board had discussed topics such as planned unit development, development of community impact, accessory dwelling units and dissolving the Architecture Review Board.
One of the biggest changes made to the document involves the city’s street grid. The draft previously seemed to require that developers build a street in accordance to the street grid. But the city cannot require that a developer build a street for public use so the staff had to get creative with ways to incentivize developers to construct the street grid.
The draft zoning code says that at a minimum, the full construction and dedication requirements of block requirements and streetscapes applies to all developments in the central business district. Standards are applied to developments that comply with the baseline street and block improvements, the document says.
Bonuses are offered to developers that address public safety and operational impacts resulting from additional demand on the existing road networks. These bonus standards are given on the full dedication and construction of the street grid, according to the draft.
A developer could also choose to build at least a 10-feet wide multi-use path instead of a street but they would not get the bonuses related to maximum height and air rights that are detailed in the document. Although they would still have to comply with the as of right standards.
“We can’t just require them to build a street. We can’t require that so we’ve got to figure out how to incentivize them to build a street,” Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell said. “We’ve walked this delicate balance between what we can require versus what we can incentivize and so that’s what we’re trying to really measure.”
City Attorney Stephen Quinn added that there is a fundamental issue with outright requiring people to build or improve public infrastructure.
“What we have determined as the city direction is that we want this infrastructure to be much better and that’s a big part of what this ordinance is about, which is all great, but we’re limited by the Georgia and United States Constitutions as far as if we were to stop someone from using their property, we would have to pay for it,” Quinn said.
If the city were to also make property owners dedicate a portion of their property to the street grid, that would be a taking as well, Quinn said.
The bonus system is calibrated to be commensurate with the impact that the new use would have on the city’s public infrastructure, Quinn said.
“I think that these developers…are appropriately incentivized to make their fair contribution to the public infrastructure and that they’ll choose to do so based on their own profit motive,” Quinn said.
If the incentives are not encouraging developers to construct roads, the city would still maintain the right to exercise eminent domain to see the street grid through, Quinn added.
The other big concept that saw some changes was the sustainability bonus system. In the sustainability section of the zoning code, developers could choose from a list of sustainability measures that they are required to do.
The change there is that it is called resiliency because it’s a broader category capturing social, economic and environmental types of characteristics, Powell said.
Developers must choose at least three categories from this section and that includes tree canopy, energy, water, transportation, public health, arts and alternate, according to the draft ordinance.
City staff and the consultants recently added the arts provision. The art could be visual public art, an outdoor performing arts facility, an open air market or an arts space or venue like a museum, gallery or production space.
Commissioner Lisa Shortell suggested, and Quinn agreed, to add clarifying language to say the art can’t be obscene or cause a safety hazard and the city manager could review the art for those limitations.
Another new section was added at Quinn’s suggestion to define the public hearing process more directly.
The City Commission will meet again on Wednesday, June 9, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 21 N. Avondale Plaza, for its first in person meeting.