This past Monday, March 10, Council President & CEO Michael Paris testified before the Dunwoody City Council to express concerns over a proposed amendment to Code Section 8-1(e)(1), which would require buildings greater than three (3) stories in height to be framed with noncombustible materials. This would mean metal and/or concrete construction. The proposed code change and associated documents can be found HERE.
The current code is in complete compliance with State building requirements and in conformance with the International Building Code in requiring that only buildings over five stories be constructed of noncombustible materials. The implementation of this new code would burden developers and builders with additional costs for buildings that are four to eight floors where the economics of steel and concrete are difficult. This would be detrimental towards the many new projects and plans that have low-rise buildings such as apartments, hotels, senior housing and offices, which typically use engineered wood-frame construction.
This code change would effectively eliminate many proposed projects and limit future construction of new and beneficial developments in the City. It seems unnecessary since the City already has complete control over new projects through its zoning authority and can use this authority in conjunction with its comprehensive land use plan
Based upon Council research on building codes throughout the Metro Atlanta region, it appears that only the City of Chamblee has a building code that requires the use of non-combustible material for buildings above three (3) stories, and Chamblee is considering the removal of this requirement as recommended in the 10 year update of it’s Chamblee Town Center Livable Centers Initiative (LCI). To see the recommendation for the City Chamblee, click HERE and look on page 56. The main reason is pure economics which has precipitated a lack of interest in new mid-rise development with the standard in place.
The imbalance between the number of commuters entering Dunwoody each day (33,250*) compared to the number that leave (18,432) or both live and work within the city (1,789) demonstrates the importance of attracting mixed-use, high density development in Dunwoody. This type of development would attract a population that would foster a live-work-play lifestyle. With the rise of the millennial population and the aging of the baby boomer generation, the demand for these developments is at an all-time high. We City should be actively supporting the construction of mixed-use, high density developments rather than targeting them with this code change. By requiring the use of noncombustible materials to construct higher density projects, Dunwoody would be hindering future economic growth and prosperity in the Perimeter area as the attraction of key demographics would be lost.
If this building code ordinance is allowed to proceed, this will not only be a Dunwoody issue, but also an issue for other cities throughout the metro area, as this will set a precedence for others to follow.
The Council has expressed its willingness to work with the City of Dunwoody to forge a policy solution that will foster responsible growth and development in Dunwoody and we are very appreciative to the City Council and Community Development Director Steve Foote for this opportunity.
The second reading and possible adoption of the code change is currently scheduled for the City Council meeting on Monday, March 24th. Your input and participation is urged.
*NOTE: These demographic numbers come from research conducted and presented by ARC Research Division Chief Mike Alexander (March 2014).