Local Government Policy Priorities: February 2018

The Council for Quality Growth works day in and day out on legislative issues impacting growth and development in the region. Following is a snapshot of some of the top issues with which the Council is currently involved and advocating for members.

STATE-WIDE – DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS CONSTRUCTION CODE UPDATE

Timeline: The State Codes Advisory Committee met on June 22, 2017 to recommend that the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Board adopt the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC) with no amendments, the 2018 Georgia Amendments to the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) (as amended in 2014 and 2015), and the 2018 Georgia Amendments to the 2012 International Building Code (IBC) (as amended in 2014, 2015, and 2017).

The proposed new mandatory State Code and proposed Georgia Amendments will be presented to the DCA Board on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The Council is soliciting feedback from members on the proposed amendments to the IRC and IBC.

The DCA Construction Code amendments to the IRC marginally relax one- and two-family dwelling building standards and the amendments to the IBC appear to have little effect:

  • IRC:
    • Each dwelling unit is no longer required to have one habitable room that is at least 120 square feet, with the rest a minimum of 70 square feet; instead, all habitable rooms must be at least 70 square feet (excepting the kitchen);
    • Girder and header spans for interior and exterior bearing walls, if using southern pine, no longer must be built using No. 1 Grade southern pine; instead, No. 2 Grade southern pine may be used, but the allowable span must be reduced by multiplying the current allowable span by 0.93;
    • Airspace between a masonry veneer and the sheathing may contain mortar from construction if such airspace provides adequate drainage;
    • Building standards for “Tiny Houses”.
  • IBC:
    • Concrete strength testing must be performed as a field test or inspection by an American Concrete Institute Strength Testing Technician.
    • Girder and header spans for interior and exterior bearing walls, if using southern pine, no longer must be built using No. 1 Grade southern pine; instead, No. 2 Grade southern pine may be used, but the allowable span must be reduced by multiplying the current allowable span by 0.93.

A detailed breakdown of the proposed amendments to the IRC and IBC can be found HERE

ATLANTA – ZONING CODE REWRITE; PERMIT OFFICE OVERHAUL; TREE PERMIT MORATORIUM; AFFORDABLE HOUSING ORDINANCE; BUCKHEAD PARKING OVERLAY DISTRICT; BELTLINE OVERLAY/WESTSIDE AFFORDABLE HOUSING; ELECTRIC VEHICLE ORDINANCE

Zoning Code Rewrite

Timeline: Diagnostic report completed in June with “quick fix” recommendations and full rewrite scope. Consultant team was engaged to begin work on the code rewrite on August 18, 2016.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The proposed ordinance represents the first phase of “quick fixes.” A second phase is anticipated next year, and a full rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance will come in three to five years.

Office of Buildings Permitting Overhaul

Timeline: Commissioner Keane is also well underway with the Office of Buildings overhaul, overseen by Technical Advisory Committee. The full rollout of the Development Services Initiative was implemented in early May 2017. Essential areas identified as part of this initiative were staffing, technology, physical space, and training. The Department has received positive feedback since the rollout, but will continue to make strides towards achieving its stated purposes. The initiative’s progress is addressed in the monthly TAC meeting.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The Council remains actively involved with the Office of Buildings permitting overhaul through hosting stakeholder input meetings with the Atlanta Advisory Committee, maintaining influence with the Technical Advisory Committee, and continuous engagement with City of Atlanta staff and City Council members.

Tree Permit Moratorium

On June 29, 2017, Atlanta City Council voted to approve a 180-day moratorium on the acceptance of any application to remove more than 10 trees on residential zoned parcels of five acres or larger. During the moratorium period, the city will examine the impact that development is having on the city’s tree canopy, and develop strategies for increasing and preserving the city’s tree canopy. The proposal was brought forth by Councilmember Natalyn Archibong and applies only to a southeast corner of the City bordered by Moreland Avenue to the West, Glenwood Avenue to the North, Custer Avenue to the South, and Flat Shoals Avenue/Bouldercrest Drive to the East.

Affordable Housing Ordinance

The City of Atlanta is currently considering an ordinance that would compel the sale of certain surplus city properties to affordable housing developers for one dollar ($1.00). If enacted, Ordinance 17-O-1463 (the “Ordinance”) would amend the City of Atlanta’s Procurement and Real Estate Code to require the City to sell for one dollar “any city-owned real property that is deemed surplus and is deemed feasible for use as affordable housing” to a Pre-Qualified Nonprofit Developer (“PQND”), a nonprofit developer, or a for-profit developer “for the purpose of developing new affordable housing units or rehabilitating existing affordable housing units.” A detailed analysis of this proposed ordinance is available HERE.

Buckhead Parking Overlay District

The Buckhead Parking Overlay District eliminates minimum off-street parking requirements in each designated use category: Residential Dwellings/Lodgings; Commercial/Retail (not Eating and Drinking Establishments); Institutional; Office; Recreation/Entertainment; and All Other Uses. Maximum off-street parking spaces are outlined in the table below:

The moratorium will expire 120-days from the date it is signed by the Mayor, or upon City Council adoption of the Buckhead Parking Overlay District, whichever occurs first.

Approximately one-half of the parcels within the overlay district (north/northeast of Pharr Road) are zoned SPI-9 or SPI-12 (the Buckhead Village and Buckhead/Lenox Station areas, respectively). SPI-12 districts currently have maximum parking requirements, while SPI-9 districts impose a maximum requirement and designate a minimum requirement of 75-percent of the maximum spaces. Multi-family development in this portion of the Overlay stands to be affected the most by this proposal – maximum residential parking spaces in these districts are reduced by approximately one space per dwelling.

The vast majority of the remaining parcels within the overlay district are zoned Residential General (RG) or Commercial (C). Both RG and C zoning districts require minimum amounts of off-street parking, but do not cap the number of spaces that can be built. In both RG and C districts, minimum parking for Retail, Recreational, Office, and other similar uses all require a minimum of one space for each 300 square feet of floor area. Properties in this portion of the Overlay zoned for Office, Recreation/Entertainment, Commercial/Retail, and Other uses stand to face the largest changes during the moratorium and if the overlay district is implemented.

As it stands today, per the moratorium adopted by City Council at its October 2nd meeting, development of parcels within this district can only be done in compliance with the Downtown Special Interest District parking regulations (identical to the proposed Buckhead Parking Overlay District). This moratorium remains in effect for 120-days or upon adoption of the Buckhead Parking Overlay District, whichever occurs first.

Affordable Workforce Housing in Beltline Overlay District & on the Westside

The City of Atlanta passed two inclusionary zoning ordinances at its November 20, 2017, meeting. The first, 17-O-1556 (Westside Ordinance), applies only to a geographic area covering the neighborhoods of English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights, and the Atlanta University Center. These boundaries are also located in the Westside Tax Allocation District and the Westside Promise Zone. The second ordinance, 17-O-1542 (Beltline Ordinance), applies to the current Beltline Overlay District. These boundaries are also located in the Beltline Tax Allocation District.

The ordinances are identical in substance, and vary only in the geographic boundaries that they cover and the ultimate destination of any in-lieu fees paid (there is separate pending legislation creating trust funds for the Westside in-lieu fee payments and Beltline Overlay in-lieu fee payments).

 

Both ordinances received unanimous recommendation from the Zoning Review Board on November 9, 2017. The ordinances were passed out of Zoning Committee on November 20th, and passed full City Council later that day.

The ordinances require all new, standalone or mixed-use multi-unit rental developments within the Beltline Overlay District or Westside neighborhoods with 10 or more units, to meet one of the following requirements:

      • 10% of the units must be set aside for households at 60% AMI or below;
      • 15% of the units must be set aside for households at 80% AMI or below; OR
      • In-Lieu fee payment that will be independently calculated and deposited into either the BeltLine Affordable Workforce Housing In-Lieu Fee Trust Fund or the Westside Affordable Workforce Housing In-Lieu Fee Trust Fund prior to the issuance of a building permit. The In-Lieu fee rate in the Westside is $145,551 per affordable unit not built, calculated at 15% of total units (e.g. If 100 market rate units and zero affordable units are built in a development, the fee would be multiplied by 15). The In-Lieu fee rate in the Beltline Overlay is contingent upon the subarea in which the development is built and ranges from $133,838 to $186,605 per unit, again, calculated at 15% of total units.

In exchange for the mandatory affordable housing set-asides, developers will receive the following incentives:

  • A density bonus in the form of 15% additional FAR. If the applicant chooses not to use any portion of the density bonus, then it can be severed and transferred or sold (“transfer of development rights”);
  • Minimum parking space reduction;
  • Priority Application Review;
  • Major Projects Meeting.

Developers will also be eligible to apply for a 10-year lease purchase property tax incentive (via Invest Atlanta) and Atlanta Housing Authority HomeFlex and Housing Choice program incentives.

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Ordinance

The City of Atlanta has adopted an ordinance, brought forth by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, requiring the incorporation of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure (EVSE) to new off-road parking and expansion of existing off-road parking for commercial and multi-family development, and construction of new single-family, two-family, and townhome dwellings in the City of Atlanta. EVSE infrastructure referenced below includes: the design load placed on electrical panels and service equipment to support the additional electrical demand, the panel capacity to support additional feeder/branch circuits, the installation of raceways, both underground and surface mounted, to support the electrical vehicle supply equipment.

Section 1

The ordinance requires that all new off-road parking, or the expansion of existing off-road parking for buildings supporting International Building Code Group A (Assembly), B (Business), E (Educational), I (Institutional), M (Mercantile), R-1 (Residential; generally, hotels/motels), and R-2 (Residential; generally, apartments, condos, and dormitories) occupancies must include EVSE infrastructure for future electric vehicle charging equipment at dedicated parking spaces. The ratio of electric vehicle parking spaces to non-electrical vehicle parking spaces shall be 1:5 based on the total number of parking spaces. New construction of the above building types that provide an electrical equipment room must have a dedicated space in such electrical equipment room for the future installation of electric vehicle supply equipment.

Section 2

All new Group R-3 (Buildings that do not contain more than two dwelling units) occupancies and all new single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings, and townhomes are required to provide EVSE infrastructure for future electric vehicle charging equipment. Accordingly, all of these dwelling types must provide sufficient electrical capacity for a 40-ampere 240-volt branch circuit for future installation of electric vehicle supply equipment, and an area within the attached or detached garage must also be dedicated for placement of such equipment. Absent an attached or detached garage, an underground electrical conduit must be provided between the dwelling and designated parking space for the dwelling.

BROOKHAVEN – PEACHTREE OVERLAY DISTRICT/PEACHTREE ROAD ZONING DISTRICTS

The Brookhaven City Council adopted its Peachtree Overlay and District and Peachtree Road Zoning Districts at its January 23 City Council Meeting. Council has actively worked with City staff and City Council during consideration of this ordinance and provided member comments to City Council at the City Council’s request.

Below are the two Ordinances that comprise the Peachtree Road package:

Peachtree Road Overlay

Peachtree Road Zoning Districts

Overlay & Zoning Districts Map

DUNWOODY – PERIMETER CENTER OVERLAY

Timeline: CQG has been involved with the formation of the draft overlay since May 2014. Dunwoody City Council adopted a new Perimeter Center Overlay and Zoning Code on May 22, 2017.

CQG Highlight: The Perimeter Center Overlay and Zoning Code were developed over a two-year period under the guidance of City leaders, Planning Commissioners, community leaders, City Staff, and representatives from the Perimeter CID. The Council for Quality Growth reviewed draft versions of the code on several occasions and offered extensive input to the City. Special thanks to Council for Quality Growth Executive Committee Member Laurel David of The Galloway Law Group, LLC who participated in several reviews and discussions with City Staff. The new overlay and zoning code provide for greater walkability and flexibility within the Dunwoody portion of the Perimeter business district.

LAWRENCEVILLE – ZONING CODE REWRITE

CQG Focus/Next Steps: On April 3, 2017, the Lawrenceville City Council unanimously approved $186,000 for a comprehensive rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance. The contract to assist in the comprehensive rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance has been awarded to Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. The City anticipates completion of this rewrite in April 2018. The Council for Quality Growth will represent our members as we work with City staff and elected officials to shape Lawrenceville’s Zoning Code rewrite.

LAWRENCEVILLE – ZONING CODE REWRITE; 2040 COMPREHENSIVE PLAN UPDATE

Zoning Code Rewrite

CQG Focus/Next Steps: On April 3, 2017, the Lawrenceville City Council unanimously approved $186,000 for a comprehensive rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance. The contract to assist in the comprehensive rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance has been awarded to Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. The City anticipates completion of this rewrite in April 2018. The Council for Quality Growth will represent our members as we work with City staff and elected officials to shape Lawrenceville’s Zoning Code rewrite.

2040 Comprehensive Plan Update

CQG Focus/Next Steps: On September 6, 2017, the Lawrenceville City Council unanimously approved a contract with Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. for its 2040 Comprehensive Plan update. The Council for Quality Growth will represent our members as we work with City staff and elected officials to shape Lawrenceville’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan update.

SANDY SPRINGS – DEVELOPMENT CODE REWRITE

Timeline: The initial zoning diagnostic and approach report, released in April 2016, raised several concerns related to standards and overall zoning process. The Council for Quality Growth has been engaged from the beginning, organizing interested developers and property owners in Sandy Springs to define a position and provide input on the code rewrite to City Staff, its consultant, and the Mayor and City Council. We represented our members at stakeholder meetings throughout the fall of 2016, and communicated comments and guidance to City Staff well into the spring of 2017.

Council Members will recall that at the Sandy Springs City Council meeting on August 1, the Council for Quality Growth delivered a letter and public comment on the Development Code proposal generally, with specific comments urging the City to consider an incentive-based affordable housing policy as part of its goal to attract the development of workforce housing within the City. On August 15, the Council for Quality Growth was in attendance as the Sandy Springs City Council passed its final version of its updated Development Code.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: Among other issues presented in the Development Code, the Council took keen interest in the City’s Inclusionary Zoning mandate. The Council worked with City Staff, the Mayor, and City Council on an incentive-based affordable housing policy, as opposed to a mandatory policy. The City Council unanimously approved amending the final Development Code to remove its entire Inclusionary Zoning mandate (Section 6.8). Instead, Sandy Springs City Council expressed its intention to move forward with the creation of an Affordable Housing Task Force to study and make recommendations on this pressing issue. Affordable Housing remains incentivized in the Development Code through additional building height bonuses.

The Council for Quality Growth applauds Mayor Rusty Paul and the Sandy Springs City Council in its unified, transparent, and collaborative approach throughout the 17-month process of updating the City’s Development Code. We will remain engaged throughout every stage of the forthcoming Affordable Housing Task Force.

CHEROKEE COUNTY – COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

CQG Focus/Next Steps: Cherokee County has kicked off its 2018 major update to the Cherokee County Comprehensive Plan, with an anticipated adoption date of October 31, 2017. The Council encourages members to engage in conversations on the plan. The Council will represent its members in shaping Cherokee County’s Comprehensive Plan major update.

COBB COUNTY – COBB COUNTY CODE AMENDMENT (JULY 2017 CODE AMENDMENT CYCLE)

Timeline: The Cobb County Community Development Agency has issued its draft amendments to the Cobb County Code for the July 2017 code amendment cycle. The Council attended the most recent Board of Commissioners public hearing on July 25, 2017.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The changes to the Zoning Chapter primarily affect Cobb County’s Open Space Community Overlay (OSC) District. The OSC district is intended to provide for the preservation of greenspace and permit flexibility of design to promote environmentally sensitive and efficient uses of land in Cobb County in the county’s single family residential zoning districts. As it currently exists, the OSC district may be overlaid upon any single family residential zoning category. On May 9, 2017, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to place a moratorium on new OSC applications. The moratorium is expected to last until September 1, 2017. Changes in the proposed amendment (the “Proposal”) to the Zoning Chapter are laid out below:

Purpose and Procedure for OSC Utilization

  • Eliminates R-80 and R-40 single family residential zoning districts from inclusion in the OSC district;
  • Extends the time requirement for OSC proposal posting from 15 days to 30 days prior to the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners meetings;
  • Amends the definition of the “building height of a residential structure or building” to mean the vertical distance from the mean ground front elevation to the mean level of the highest roof structure.

Review Criteria for OSC Zoning

  • Requires side setbacks in an OSC district of 7.5 feet. Previously, side setback requirements were calculated as “the sum of which equals the total sum of side setbacks required for the underlying zoning district, with a minimum of five feet”;
  • While the Proposal still has no minimum tract size in an OSC district, it now requires a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet for R-15 OSC, 13,000 square feet for R-20 OSC, and 15,000 square feet for R-30 OSC (recall that R-80 and R-40 lots are no longer eligible for OSC districting);
  • Eliminates the minimum space requirement between buildings (previously, 15 feet). However, applicants are now required under the Proposal to establish aesthetically compatible fencing to eliminate open space encroachment along individual lots;
  • Stipulates that floodplain, wetlands, and lakes may only account for 70 percent of required open space (previously, 75 percent);
  • Eliminates OSC district density bonuses found in the current Code. The new net density of a proposed OSC project cannot exceed the average density found in the Summary of Bulk regulation table (Sec. 134-191) for the requested zoning district with OSC;
  • Requires all OSC projects to have a minimum of 35% open space (previously, open space requirements were based on Zoning District type).

The Board also incorporated a “blight tax” to address the burden that property maintained in a blighted condition places on local government, citizens, and the economic development community. This economic development plan, titled “Community Improvement Tax Incentive Program”, levies an increased ad valorem tax on blighted property, then offers a reduction in ad valorem tax to offset remedial or redevelopment costs incurred to cure the blight. Further analysis on this code section can be found here.

DEKALB COUNTY – FATS, OILS, AND GREASE PROPOSED ORDINANCE

Timeline: DeKalb County has issued a proposed Fats, Oils, and Grease (“FOG”) ordinance rewrite. Although the Council has engaged in talks with key staff members and elected officials on this proposed ordinance, at this time there is no formal schedule for when this issue will be addressed publicly by the County.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The proposed FOG ordinance has the potential to have significant impact on development in DeKalb County. The rewrite surpasses the scope of the existing FOG ordinance by, most notably, expanding the FOG interceptor and permitting requirements beyond only Food Service Establishments to additionally include Mixed Use Complexes, Multi-Family Complexes, and any other establishment requiring a business license that may potentially introduce FOG into the County’s Sanitary Sewer System (“Generators”). It is concerning that, in addition to the breadth of the proposed FOG ordinance, all existing non-FSE mixed and multi-family facilities will have to comply with new FOG requirements within 24 months of passage of the ordinance. Based on Council Member feedback and analysis, the Council will be working closely with the PWI Committee, County Staff and County Commissioners to adequately address sewer capacity issues while not retarding development in the County. A more detailed analysis of this proposal can be found here.

DOUGLAS COUNTY – SWEETWATER MASTER PLAN

Timeline: The community planning process for the Sweetwater Master Plan began in the fall of 2015, with Kimley-Horn and DCEDA beginning a five-part planning process in the spring of 2016. Kimley-Horn presented its Southwest Thornton Activity Center Sweetwater Master Plan in May 2017. The plan was adopted by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and the Douglas County Planning & Zoning Board on June 20, 2017.

CQG Focus/Next Steps: The Sweetwater Master Plan is designed to develop an updated future land use plan for the area based on land suitability and market conditions that balance existing residential uses with the developing business and industrial bases already in the area. Stakeholder meetings and community design workshops on the issue emphasized a desire for greenspace, a reduction in conflicts between trucks and automobiles, and the fostering of quality amenities such as higher quality restaurants and retail establishments.

FORSYTH COUNTY – COMPREHENSIVE PLAN, IMPACT FEES

Comprehensive Plan

Timeline: The Forsyth Board of County Commissioners adopted the 2017-2037 Comprehensive Plan on July 6, 2017.

CQG Highlights: At their April 13, 2017 meeting, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners unanimously authorized transmission of the Foster Forsyth Comprehensive Plan Update for state review. Over the last year, a planning team led by Jacobs and Kimley-Horn worked with 2 committees, conducted 14 public meetings, hosted online engagement activities, and appeared before the County Commission on more than 8 occasions to develop, discuss, and revise the plan.

Foster Forsyth moves the County from a development plan based on large areas of suburban residential development and commercial corridors to a plan that identifies and recognizes 11 distinct character areas within the County and a series of well-defined development nodes. Three of the defined development nodes, McFarland, South Georgia 400, and North Georgia 400, include recommendations for the County to create new mixed-use zoning categories. The plan also calls for revisions and limitations to the County’s MPD zoning district.

Before submitting the plan to the State, County Commissioners did add limitations to higher intensity residential (RES3, RES4, and RES6) within several character areas. The Commission also limited highway business and highway commercial uses in some others and added commercial corridors to others.

Impact Fees

Timeline: Impact Fee Ordinance was adopted in April and went into effect on June 1st, 2016. The BOC expects this to be a continuous issue that will continue to be revised. On February 3, 2017, Park and Recreation Impact Fees were increased from $1,015 to $1,178 and from $645 to $748 for single family and multifamily units, respectively.

CQG Highlights: The Council has been involved in this issue since the first draft of the impact fee study was released in August last year. Through the Council’s work in conjunction with a strong coalition of Council members including board member Paul Corley, the impact fee per single family residential unit was reduced from the proposed $8,900 per home to now approximately $3,800 per home impact fee and $0 impact fee on all commercial, office and industrial development.

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