Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Glenwood Avenue update: Council rezones, Reed won't veto, legal challenge imminent

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Developer says lawsuit is likely after Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smiths rezoning proposal passed yesterday
  • Joeff Davis
  • Developer says lawsuit is likely after Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith's rezoning proposal passed yesterday
The Atlanta City Council passed two controversial ordinances yesterday that could halt a proposed retail complex near Glenwood Park along the Atlanta Beltline. But whether or not that actually happens will be an issue that plays out in subsequent months.

Both pieces of legislation will proactively rezone 800 Glenwood Ave. from light industrial to multi-family residential. In doing so, it could effectively halt veteran Atlanta developer Jeff Fuqua's plans to build a giant suburban-style retail center anchored by an approximately 143,000 square-foot tenant that's rumored to be a Walmart.

Some residents from Grant Park, Ormewood Park, and other nearby communities think that Fuqua's plans run against the Beltline's vision, which they argue calls for denser and more walkable developments.

"I'm happy that our Beltline vision is still intact," Councilwoman Carla Smith, who introduced the proposals at the request of her constituents, told CL last night.

Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, one of the few people who voted against Smith's legislation, expressed her concerns regarding the precedent the proactive rezoning would set. The city's Office of Planning, Sheperd argued, had already approved several permits for the project, which might hurt the ordinances' chances of surviving a court challenge. Fuqua's development was already in progress before the ordinances were introduced.

Fuqua tells CL that his company plans on moving forward with the development until they're told otherwise. In addition, he thinks Council's vote isn't reflective of the city's usual position on development and that the project got caught in the middle of elected officials trying to make a statement in an election year.

"I think every councilmember knows it was illegal," the developer says. "It's a sad situation. The vote sets a horrible precedent for development in the city."

The developer says he expects litigation to be filed very shortly, perhaps "within a couple weeks." It'll likely include his company, LaFarge, and possibly several retail tenants who had already signed leases and committed to the project.

According to Mayor Kasim Reed spokeswoman Melissa Mullinax, the Glenwood Park project has appropriately been subject to the city's standard zoning and permitting process. She noted that Fuqua's proposal had been granted a Special Administrative Permit earlier this summer by the city's planning department.

When asked whether the mayor would veto the Council's decision to change the zoning, she said: "Mayor Reed will not veto the rezoning ordinances. He thinks the City Council spoke clearly in favor of Councilwoman Carla Smith's legislation."

With lawsuits on the way, local residents and neighborhood groups are backing a separate appeal with the Board of Zoning Adjustment over the special permit that the city's Office of Planning issued in July. If you recall, Fuqua Development spent the first half of the year trying to receive certain exemptions from the zoning codes. If overturned, it would effectively stop the Glenwood Park retail center from moving forward.

The BZA appeal is set to take place at City Hall on October 10 at noon.

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