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Decatur Planning Commission recommends denial of cell phone tower near YMCA

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Decatur Planning Commission recommends denial of cell phone tower near YMCA

A map showing the proposed location of the cell tower. Image obtained via the city of Decatur.

By Anila Yoganathan, contributor

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Planning Commission at its Oct. 10 meeting voted to recommend the city commission deny an application to install a telecommunications tower near the YMCA of Metro Atlanta building and recommended approval of an ordinance for a preliminary plat at 258 Forkner Drive.

After listening to opposing comments from neighbors who would live near the cell tower “monopole” that is proposed by CitySwitch II-A, LLC, Kendal Lotze and Ignite Wireless, members of the Planning Commission questioned CitySwitch’s legal representative, Ivy Cadle.

Concerns from neighbors included the resilience of the tower during extreme weather events or a catastrophic failure, and the possibility of it falling on nearby buildings due to a reduced setback distance. There were also concerns over the impact of radio waves on the health of individuals living nearby, the need for a sizable vegetative buffer zone around the tower, and the potential installation of a generator that would emit noise in the community.

While some spoke during the public comment, written comments were also submitted ahead of time, along with a petition against the tower with 236 names against it.

The application from CitySwitch to build the tower would be on land in the CSX railroad right of way and would involve a modification of setback limits from the property line and a modification to the landscape buffer requirements, according to the Planning Commission’s staff report.

“​​The engineer’s letter, the guts of it, [are] very technical. The letter itself is not technical at all. Uses terms like ‘highly unlikely,’ ‘most unlikely,’ ‘effectively result,’” Greg Chilik, member of the Planning Commission said during the discussion of the application. “It does not convince me that the only place that portions of this structure during a failure event would fall or come to rest is within the 50-foot by 60-foot compound.”

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the city commission deny the application.

The second item that was considered was the request for a preliminary plat for a subdivision at 258 Forkner Drive. The property currently has an apartment building with 10 two-bedroom units. A company called Footprint Properties, LLC would like to add six cottage court single-family homes, which would be between two and three bedrooms each.

The applicant is requesting that the property be subdivided into eight parcels: one for the existing apartment building, one for a common space owned by the homeowners association, and six separate parcels for each cottage.

“…It was determined that the intent of the city’s code for cottage court homes is that the homes should be owned as fee-simple, with separate land parcels for each cottage court home,” The application says. “The six proposed cottage court homes could be completed as planned with one common parcel; however, this is not the intent of the code, nor would this ‘single lot’ configuration be in the best interest for the city and future homeowners.”

Neighbors of 258 Forkner Drive raised concerns over water management, the tree canopy, and limited parking in the area, claiming residents in the current apartment building do not just use the parking within the property but also the street parking nearby, creating congestion in the area. With additional housing on the property, there are concerns that parking congestion will increase.

Under Decatur municipal code, there is one parking space required per dwelling unit. The developer has to make available at least one parking space per apartment unit or cottage, not per bedroom within those structures.

“There is already some parking on Forkner from the apartments. Adding multiple 3-bedroom units with limited parking to the lot is likely to exacerbate what is already a significant problem,” said Richard Reid, president of the Glenn Court Home Owner’s Association in written comments to the Planning Commission. “We would request that parking on Forkner be limited to one side of the street at a minimum to help alleviate the problems that are likely to continue to worsen with this and other development in the area.”

The applicant, Erik Pawloski, in his rebuttal, said the current apartment complex has plenty of parking.

“We’ve got a development proposal that doesn’t require any variances,” Planning Commission chair Harold Buckley Jr. said. “And as Rachel (Cogburn) pointed out earlier, if you change the ownership structure the methodology is still exactly the way it’s proposed, and we couldn’t say boo about it.”

The ordinance approving the preliminary plat was amended to account for cottage units that might be two or three bedrooms and was then unanimously passed by the commission.

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