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Decatur Diary | June 25, 2018

East Lake MARTA Vision Prepares for Commission Consideration with Revised Draft

A revised draft of the East Lake MARTA Station LCI Study, responsive to neighboring concerns voiced during an additional round of community input meetings, is now complete and ready for review in advance of consideration by Decatur’s Planning Commission and City Commission.

What’s Different?

Consistent in the recent input provided by the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association, the Parkwood Garden Club, Druid Hills Civic Association, and others during the Decatur Planning Commission’s May and June meetings, were concerns over height, setbacks, transitions to surrounding properties, timing, and traffic.

Revisions — those appropriate to the purpose and scope of an LCI Study — have since been made to address these concerns:

Building Height
In contrast to the LCI Study’s earlier draft, recommendations now reflect only three- to four-story buildings, eliminating the fifth floor previously detailed. Any prospect of a fifth floor would only be considered as part of a bonus allowance, should a future developer be able to achieve a minimum of 30% affordable units. This allowance, were it to be pursued, would be restricted solely to property adjacent to the West College Avenue corridor and would require subsequent public hearings for community consideration. Otherwise, MARTA’s formal policy is a minimum 20% affordable units, which is reflected in the LCI Study.

Pages xiii, xxv-xxvi, 9, 12-13, and 81 of the present draft reflect these changes.

Transitional Heights and Setbacks
In response to concerns about transitional height and setbacks, recommendations now reflect a maximum height of three-story buildings to be directly across from (on the south lot) or adjacent to (on the north lot) single-family residential lots. Four-story buildings are reserved for railroad and commercial corridors. Additionally, building setbacks are 40 to 60 feet from the north lot property line adjacent to single-family residential lots, half of which will require a planted buffer. The building setbacks from single-family residential lots on the south lot range from 80 to 160 feet, which include the right of way, plazas and station green.

These transitional recommendations allow for development in which facing and adjacent properties share similar height restrictions. Conceptual section drawings are reflected on Page 99.

In response to concerns about policy and zoning timelines, the final timeline for policy changes and consideration of rezoning of MARTA-owned properties has been adjusted to align with other aspects of MARTA’s multi-year, multi-phased process for future redevelopment. The term “immediate” has been replaced with lengthier time periods of 1-2 years and 3-5 years. Pages xxvii, 76, and 117 reflect these changes.

Though the plan has considerable recommendations for traffic calming in and around the station area, consideration of specific traffic volume impacts will take place once a detailed development proposal has been submitted. This allows for real-time (rather than speculative) community consideration of relevant details. For example, anticipated traffic counts can differ significantly based on the actual uses, unit types, and unit counts of any particular proposal. Furthermore, reconfiguration of Dekalb Avenue (on both the Atlanta and Decatur sides) will likely be complete by the time a redevelopment proposal materializes, potentially altering existing travel patterns and mobility choices.

That said, however, the City recognizes vehicular traffic in the Parkwood neighborhood and has initiated a corridor traffic-calming initiative from East Parkwood to East Lake to 2nd Avenue to address these concerns in the near-term.

What Does ‘Adoption’ Mean?

Adoption by the City Commission would equate to a validation of the collaborative community process that informed the plan, a formal endorsement of its vision for the East Lake MARTA station property — particularly as it relates to maximum scale and density, general site design, mobility to and around the station, and affordability goals — and would establish the Study as the designated guide for any redevelopment efforts moving forward.

Such action is not to be confused with a rezoning of the property. While a rezoning is being recommended within the LCI Study, the MARTA-owned properties are not being rezoned as a part of the Study’s adoption and no particular development proposal is being considered or approved. Any such action of rezoning, which per MARTA estimates is not expected to initiate for another 3-5 years, would require subsequent public hearings in which the specific details of a submittal would be subjected to further public review, comment, and consideration.

Consideration of this current draft by the Planning Commission is scheduled for August 14, 2018. The City Commission is then expected to consider it on August 20.

Project Background

The Make East Lake MARTA Yours initiative emerged from 2005’s Comprehensive Plan and 2010’s Strategic Planning process, where the need for a long-term vision for the site was initially identified. That goal was then reaffirmed in the 2016 Comprehensive Plan wherein this effort, which was ultimately funded almost entirely by the Atlanta Regional Commission, was added to the city’s work program of tasks and projects.

In what will ultimately be an eleven-month initiative that began in September, 2017, the process — which has included public meetings, a walking audit, a design workshop, two online surveys (here and here), one-on-one onsite input with commuters, and a closing presentation — provided for a unique opportunity where the goals and preferences of all stakeholders — the City of Decatur, the City of Atlanta, Dekalb County, the property owner (MARTA), surrounding neighbors, business and affordable housing interests, and commuters — could all be heard in a forum that allows for the reconciling of competing interests through design and compromise.

When the draft plan was presented to the Planning Commission in May, proximate neighbors requested additional opportunity to review and provide further input. Those meetings — where city staff met individually with representatives of the Parkwood, Oakhurst, and Druid Hills neighborhoods — were held in May and June.

Final modifications reflecting that input are included in the present draft as described above.

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  1. Crazy Bob says

    You know, what REAL difference does it make? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  2. Blackcatprowliii says

    Sounds like an select elite pushing through their unsupported ideas.

  3. Has the Bell South (AT&T) 8 acres been completely separated from the final vision of East Lake Marta Station? The AT&T site was called a preliminary for future consideration, but, at minimum, a competing preliminary vision of the 8 acre property future as The AT&T Bicycle Park should be adjoined.

  4. allyana ziolko says

    I left East Lake Atlanta after 40 years in the same house because of over development. The continual uglifying of Atlanta is pitiful.

  5. I can’t wait for the added density and neighborhood vibrancy this concept will bring. The current amount of surface parking available doesn’t belong in what could be walkable urban neighborhoods. I support this vision.

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