Two ordinances, 12-O-1599 and 12-O-1600, introduced by Atlanta City Councilman Wan, will be heard by the Zoning Review Board at its May 9, 2013 meeting and the full Atlanta City Council on June 3. The ordinances, if approved, would sunset all non-conforming businesses along two parts of Cheshire Bridge Road, zoned to the Neighborhood Commercial Districts NC 4 and NC 5. This issue raises serious property rights concerns.
Existing grandfathered businesses would have two years to adhere to the zoning requirements. If they cannot, they would be able to apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) to be considered for an additional two-year “amortization period” to allow the businesses to recoup their investment.
However, if a business leases the property there does not appear to be any compensation scheme for the property owner for the loss of lease revenue or property improvements. There are numerous businesses that would be affected. The NC District prohibits auto repair shops, car washes, bakeries or catering establishments that are more than 2,000 square feet, and retail and restaurant uses if more than 8,000 square feet.
If the ordinances are approved it could set the precedent for amortization of non-conforming uses in other parts of the metro area. The City of Sandy Springs enacted legislation requiring the amortization of adult businesses within its boundaries in 2009 and has been in court defending the legislation ever since, in a costly legal battle.
The Council for Quality Growth is concerned about the possible chilling effect of this ordinance on economic development. The number and locations of the nonconforming uses affected by the proposed ordinances should be evaluated in order to better understand the impacts of the proposed ordinances.
Without a thorough analysis, it is unclear how many businesses will be forced to discontinue or relocate, how many vacant properties will be caused, the impact of those vacancies on neighboring property values, and whether nonconforming uses will be able to convert to conforming uses.