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Tucker creates new mixed-use zoning for Northlake, considers increasing downtown density

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Tucker creates new mixed-use zoning for Northlake, considers increasing downtown density

FILE PHOTO FROM MARCH 11, USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Bottom photo L to R: City Manager John McHenry, Council member Alexis Weaver, Council member Cara Schroeder, Council member Roger Orlando, Mayor Frank Auman, Council member Amy Trocchi, Council member Vinh Nguyen, Community Development Director Courtney Smith

Tucker, GA — At their regular meeting on March 11, The Tucker city council passed two revisions to the city’s zoning ordinance and is planning another. The city also awarded several contracts to improve roads and stormwater infrastructure.

The meeting was opened by the Tucker Middle School chorus singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The city is creating a new Planned Unit Development or master planned communities designation for the area around Northlake, NL-PUD. This designation will allow mixed-use developments that are at least 30 acres and meet certain other requirements, including a site plan and a minimum amount of open space. 

Community Development Manager Courtney Smith said that the purpose is to encourage creative approaches that are not possible with the underlying zoning. Smith added that no specific development is in the works at the moment.

In response to a question from council member Alexis Weaver, Smith said that the intent for Northlake to comply with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Communities Initiative is already written into the city’s code.

A public hearing and first read were conducted for changes to the zoning in downtown Tucker as well. Those changes would allow greater density by increasing building heights for multifamily dwellings and reducing the width of townhomes allowed in the district. 

Buildings within 200’ of Main Street are limited to three stories. Other areas in the downtown area could be up to five stories. Density over 35 units per acre would require a special land use permit (SLUP).

Resident Steve Hagan spoke in favor of making sure that affordable workforce and accessible housing are part of any zoning or planning discussion.

“It’s a problem all over,” he said. “We have a good opportunity to take a big bite out of it.”

Hagan said that he normally agrees with the planning department’s actions but does not agree with the assessment that including affordable housing might drive development away.

Donna Davis also spoke in favor of affordable housing and suggested that the city find ways to make it affordable for artists to live in the city, including subsidizing housing costs in return for classes and public art events.

Smith said that based on discussions with developers it will be difficult to get affordable housing without a tax abatement. 

Weaver pointed out that “workforce housing” is based on the area median income, which for Tucker is $81,000.

“Are you saying that if a developer comes in and builds at market rate, that the average Tucker resident couldn’t afford that market rate?” Auman asked.

During public comment, resident Robin Biro said that the proposed rezoning is a big change and that the council needs more information before making a decision.

Michelle Penkava said that she feels that there are several things that the city could do to support businesses before making such a large change, especially since part of what is slowing development is factors outside the city’s control, such as the economy.

A second read and vote on the downtown changes will be held at a future city council meeting.

In other business:

— The city is abandoning its right-of-way for an area between Fern Drive, Lawrenceville Highway, Montreal Circle, and Montreal Road, after determining that the lot cannot be developed without it. The lot has been zoned “office-industrial” in congruence with neighboring lots. Adjacent property owners will be able to purchase the property.

— The city is also considering a SLUP for a personal care home at 4372 Lawrenceville Highway, as well as a modification to approval conditions which would allow a compound pharmacy at  2212 Fellowship Road. A public hearing, second read, and vote will be held at a future meeting for both.

— The city awarded a contract to Georgia Paving, Inc for resurfacing 36 streets for $3,081,853. 

— The city awarded an engineering design contract to Falcon Design for $136,500.  Falcon will conduct necessary surveys and analysis to correct several problems with Richardson Street and produce design and construction documents.

— The city awarded two contracts for stormwater projects to CAJENN, one for extending existing stormwater infrastructure at Tucker Industrial Road and Elmdale Road for $99,796, and another for the curb, gutter, and pavement at the intersection of Prestwick Drive and Churchwell Lane for $66,395

— Tucker’s University of Governmental Affairs graduates, including new council members Vinh Nguyen and Amy Trocchi, were awarded certificates. Auman described it as an opportunity for leaders and future leaders to learn how the city operates.

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