As traffic problems continue to plague Buckhead, two city councilmembers say one answer is limiting parking required in new developments.
Councilmembers Yolanda Adrean of District 8 and Howard Shook of District 7, introduced legislation at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting that would create the “Buckhead Parking Overlay District,” their response to what they see as worsening traffic issues caused by the development the Peachtree Road corridor has undergone in the past few years.
The councilmembers are attempting to lower the ratio of parking spots to square-footage to match Downtown requirements. The basic idea of the overlay district is to no longer allow parking requirements typical of suburbs, Shook said.
“Neighborhoods are getting choked in traffic. The goal is to create not as much of a car-centric development,” Adrean said.
“Sometime between the last two to three years, Buckhead’s traffic volume went from being a nuisance to something much worse,” Shook said.
Mayor Kasim Reed signed an executive order Sept. 18 creating a 120-day moratorium that prohibits developers from applying for permits for new projects while the legislation for the overlay district is reviewed by the public.
Developers can apply for projects during the moratorium if the planned parking falls under the proposed requirements.
The legislation would eliminate minimum parking requirements in the district and lower the ratio of allowed parking spaces for retail, office, lodging and residential properties.
The overlay district would allow a maximum of 1.25 parking spaces for each one bedroom residential unit and 2.25 for each two bedroom residential unit. A maximum of one space for each hotel room would be allowed at motels and hotels. Retail spaces would be allowed 2.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor area.
Current parking ratios vary depending on zoning districts.
The new overlay district would capture Peachtree Road, the Buckhead Village area and the large commercial area around Lenox Square Mall.
The proposed development at 99 West Paces Ferry Road project is one example of a development that would have to conform to the new parking ratios. The development is currently in SPI-9, which allows a maximum of two parking spaces per unit plus a half space for each unit with three or more bedrooms.
Developers are seeking to build 989 parking spaces for 525 apartment units. The developers are also proposing 16,000 square feet of commercial space. That project is currently attempting to be rezoned and has not received its building permit yet, meaning it would have to comply with the proposed parking ratios before it could receive a permit.
The SPI-9 committee previously “expressed concerns about the number of parking spaces proposed and recommends it be reduced significantly,” according to documents about the developers hearing with committee.
The councilmembers believe the abundance of parking in Buckhead has exacerbated the area’s traffic congestion problem. “The excessive amount of accessory parking in office and commercial uses has greatly contributed to the traffic and congestion in the area,” the ordinance says.
Shook also said previous studies have shown Buckhead is “rapidly exhausting our road capacity.”
Instead of changing development density, which Shook said can’t legally be changed, the councilmembers will seek to change parking.
“Neighborhood representatives grimly understand that development rights cannot be taken away, but that doesn’t apply to the number of parking spaces that directly contribute to our congestion problem,” Adrean said in a press release about the ordinance.
The councilmembers will seek input from the Georgia Department of Transportation and conduct studies on the effects the legislation would have, Adrean said. The legislation will also follow the normal city legislation protocol of being presented before Neighborhood Planning Districts, where the public has an opportunity to give input. It will also go before the Zoning Review Board and the Department of City Planning.
Rebecca King, who is challenging Shook for the District 7 council seat, did not respond to a request for a comment.
The proposed overlay district is part of a package of ordinances the two councilmembers have drafted in an attempt to relieve traffic. The legislation would take effect citywide if passed.
One ordinance would prohibit the Department of Public Works from closing lanes for work during “peak” periods, defined in the ordinance as 6:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:15 to 6:30 p.m., unless it is emergency work.
Another ordinance would prohibit commercial vehicles from parking on the street to make deliveries and blocking a lane of traffic.
These two ordinances were referred to the Transportation Committee and will be read again at the next city council meeting on Oct. 6. Shook and Adrean also seek to stop the Atlanta Police Department from stopping motorists in lanes, and instead pull motorists over in parking lots or side streets when possible. This ordinance was referred to the Public Safety and Legal Administration council committee.