An old-fashioned development kerfuffle is brewing in the Old Fourth Ward. Some residents in the Sweet Auburn district are up in arms as a result of an apartment building proposed for a lot bordered by William Holmes Borders Senior Drive and Gartrell and Jackson streets. Currently, most of the lot is consumed by a vacant field — except for a two-story, 16-unit apartment building — and is surrounded by more vacant fields, plus the back of Liberty Baptist Church on Gartrell Street. The developer, Southeast Capital, would add a five-story apartment building and accompanying parking deck. And therein lies the problem, as some nearby residents see it.
Neighbors of the site claim the proposed 261-unit building poses a threat to their safety and quality of life. In a September letter to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, nearby residents outlined their concerns, which include: traffic flow problems leading to an uptick in accidents; preservation of neighborhood character; limited developer concern for neighborhood criticisms and all the sightline issues that come with a four-story parking deck attached to five stories of apartments.
According to BZA staff reports from Sept. 23, requests from the developer for zoning variances were put on hold until the developer could rectify a number of design issues, such as meeting minimum open-space requirements, shifting location of a pool and meeting street tree-planting requirements. According to staff reports from Oct. 1, the firm made the recommended changes and had its zoning requests approved.
Despite the changes, nearby residents are worried they're being railroaded by the company. At least one has brought up potential conflict of interest accusations as one of the members of the zoning board, Linda Rowland Sessler, worked as an associate for a firm around the same time a lawyer for Southeast Capital, Carl E. Westmoreland Jr., was a partner in the same firm, according to a neighborhood source and documents obtained by Curbed.
Right now, there are three separate appeals filed against the BZA decision to grant zoning variances. That process can take up to a year.
— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Jason Flynn
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