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Decatur Planning Commission recommends approval of 12-unit townhome project

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Decatur Planning Commission recommends approval of 12-unit townhome project

A rendering of the site plan for a 12-unit townhouse development shows the location of the property at 111 Church Street. Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur.

Decatur, GA— The Decatur Planning Commission, at its March 12 meeting, recommended approval of a conditional use permit with two additional conditions and a special exception for a townhome project at 111 Church Street.

The project will go before the Decatur City Commission for final approval.

Plans for the development include 12 townhomes on the half-acre site at the corner of Church Street and East Howard Avenue. The property is currently zoned as general commercial, which allows for townhouses as long as a conditional use permit is attained.

Conditions were added by the commission to ensure mature trees on the property would be protected and to ensure that the property was in line with the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, which regulates affordable housing.

The section states that 10% of all housing developments built must be “inclusionary” or restricted to families that make less than or equal to 120% of the area median income (AMI) of the area, which according to Invest Atlanta, 120% AMI would range from $81,000 for a one-person household to $115,680 for a four-person household.

The ordinance also states that inclusionary housing must be “designed to be functionally equivalent in style and quality with the market rate dwelling units in the development.”

Regarding this statute, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill raised the concern to the commission that the inclusionary housing units in the site plan were slightly narrower than the market-rate housing, which would require an additional variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“I think this would set a very bad precedent,” Threadgill said.

According to the site plan, most of the market-rate units range from 18 feet to 19 feet in width, with the two affordable units roughly three feet narrower or about 15 feet. Each also has a one-car garage, as opposed to the two-car garage present on the rest of the properties. There was discussion whether this was a significant enough diversion to warrant rejection.

The applicant, Andrew Rutledge, told the commission that the slightly narrower units were necessary because the Office of Design, the architecture firm represented by Rutledge, had tried to include two affordable units, though only one was required.

Rutledge also informed the board that there was no practical way to tweak the site plan in this regard and that amending the plan to make the inclusionary units more similar would result in the site having just the one required unit.

The special exception allowed the townhomes to be 50 feet at their highest, 10 feet higher than the code limit of 40 feet.

Assistant Editor Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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