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Lady Celeste

The Infill Dilemma inside the Perimeter of Atlanta.

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I am conflicted by this situation.

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As more people decided to trade in their suburban homes for digs intown, they are bringing their suburban home taste with them. This is especially happening inside the Perimeter in north Dekalb and north Atlanta. Small ranch homes are being dwarfed by new infill that loom tall over thier older counterparts. While I agree that care must be taken to preserve the richness of intown neighborhoods, how can you tell what type of houses are going to be built in a particular area. Now I do agree with limiting some homes. I wouldn't want to live next door to a 17,000 square foot Dome house just because the person had the money to build it. I am not however finding that these houses are so hideous.

Mind you, I know how most people feel about McMansions. I myself prefer something a wee bit more ummmmmmmmmmmm custom...but for those who want to live intown with a bit more updated creature comforts, this may be the way to go. This is going to become an increasing discussion as more people choose to live intown. Not everyone wants to live in a highrise. Besides, people with children are probably a little hesitant about living in a highrise anyway. How will this backlash against infill development affect families moving back in town?

Read more here:

Ordinance would limit new house size

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ITP should be restricted to higher densitiy residential housing. Doing so would help the area tremendously be allowing more people to live closer to their work... which is why I assume that people are moving back in to town.

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^ By higher density residential housing, what do you mean? Townhomes, multi-unit buildings?

Fortunately the mcmansion craze hasn't hit any of the neighborhoods around where I live - but it is definitely a concern. But perhaps the small lot sizes (.25 acre is typically the largest in the area) & at least in national register neighborhoods the urban design requirements should keep them out. But you never know - I do know I hate what they've done to Brookhaven, one of my favorite northside communities.

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I'm pretty strongly opposed to most restrictions which seek to impose any particular aesthetic of size or style of house as the "norm." It's one thing if you're in a truly historic neighborhood such as Grant Park or Inman Park where the lovely Victorians have stood for a century or more. But I get the impression -- and I will gladly stand corrected -- that ordinances like the one in DeKalb and the one proposed by Mary Norwood -- seem to place undue emphasis on the one story ranch that was popularized in the 60's. I grew up in a house like that but don't view them as the gold standard. In my neighborhood, for example, a number of the older larger homes predate the ranches by several decades and could possibly not be built under these proposed ordinances, although it's the ranches that are actually the late arrivals. A large part of the excitement and interest in a city is the diversity in housing styles, and I'm thus reluctant to support efforts to enforce conformity to any particular style.

Obviously, if the inner city is going to compete with the burbs, then it's going to have to offer the style and size of housing that people want. Now that the city is finally seeing a major upsurge of interest in folks living in-town, I'm hesitant to tell them their options are limited by what was built in the 1960's and 70's.

Those of us who are committed to living in the city absolutely need to have an ongoing conversation about what is most acceptable to most people. However, I'm not sure a "one size fits all" ordinance addresses that.

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Just to throw this out there.....the home owners of Myers Park commuity here in Charlotte felt that they were beginning to see the negative affects of too large of homes coming into their neighborhood, so they went to the zoning books and found a never used provision that has halted much of the intown monsters.....homes can no longer occupy more than 35%-50% of the lot with building or parking surface in single-family home zoning districts (the range is based on the density of the single-family zoning).

While this doesn't prevent people from adding second stories, it is preventing tear-downs to be replaced by true monstrosities.

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Just to throw this out there.....the home owners of Myers Park commuity here in Charlotte felt that they were beginning to see the negative affects of too large of homes coming into their neighborhood, so they went to the zoning books and found a never used provision that has halted much of the intown monsters.....homes can no longer occupy more than 35%-50% of the lot with building or parking surface in single-family home zoning districts (the range is based on the density of the single-family zoning).

While this doesn't prevent people from adding second stories, it is preventing tear-downs to be replaced by true monstrosities.

Atlanta has a similar lot coverage provision on it's zoning books, I believe it is 45%of the lot can be impervious surface on lots zoned R5 (typical SFR zoning). We use this provision quite a bit when we think the house is too big for the neighborhood. With regards to second or third story additions, Atlanta an FAR provision on the books. FAR stands for Flor to Air Ratio, and it is a ratio of lot size and allowable sq. footage.

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Atlanta has a similar lot coverage provision on it's zoning books, I believe it is 45%of the lot can be impervious surface on lots zoned R5 (typical SFR zoning). We use this provision quite a bit when we think the house is too big for the neighborhood. With regards to second or third story additions, Atlanta an FAR provision on the books. FAR stands for Flor to Air Ratio, and it is a ratio of lot size and allowable sq. footage.

So this must be what DeKalb County is trying to do. They better hurry because between Brookhaven, Chamblee and Shallowford, these types of redevelopment are taking place at a maddening speed.

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Not to keep interrupting this thread, but I wish Charlotte had the FAR restrictions....I believe here it only applies to commercial zoning districts.....

Are there standard property-line setbacks required for the single-family zoning districts?

One other restriction that keeps being proposed here, but fails to pass, is the elimination of "snout-houses" or houses with garages protruding from the principal facade toward the front lot line.

Ultimately, there aren't many options though unless a HOA wishes to add deed-restrictions to the community that establishes an architectual review committe....though I'm not sure if this is legally enforceable on all properties, or just those that agree to the restrictions.

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Not to keep interrupting this thread, but I wish Charlotte had the FAR restrictions....I believe here it only applies to commercial zoning districts.....

Are there standard property-line setbacks required for the single-family zoning districts?

One other restriction that keeps being proposed here, but fails to pass, is the elimination of "snout-houses" or houses with garages protruding from the principal facade toward the front lot line.

Ultimately, there aren't many options though unless a HOA wishes to add deed-restrictions to the community that establishes an architectual review committe....though I'm not sure if this is legally enforceable on all properties, or just those that agree to the restrictions.

yes, atlanta does have setback requirements for SFR areas. They vary from area to area, and this kind of variance accounts for most of the zoning variances we review.

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^ By higher density residential housing, what do you mean? Townhomes, multi-unit buildings?

Fortunately the mcmansion craze hasn't hit any of the neighborhoods around where I live - but it is definitely a concern. But perhaps the small lot sizes (.25 acre is typically the largest in the area) & at least in national register neighborhoods the urban design requirements should keep them out. But you never know - I do know I hate what they've done to Brookhaven, one of my favorite northside communities.

Any type of multifamily housing (meaning not SFR) is higher density.

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Any type of multifamily housing (meaning not SFR) is higher density.

That is what I wanted to confirm - because, that honestly isn't that great of a plan. Atlanta does indeed need to densify, but it requires densification in the right places - regional & neighborhood centers as well as corridors where appropriate. Otherwise, Atlanta was not developed to be a city of high density, the street & transit, & utility infrastructure would not be able to accomadate higher densities anywhere inside the Perimeter. ITP is actually a vast area, which also includes undeveloped areas as well as typical post WWII suburbs. Increasing density without regard to infrastructure or concentrating on existing dense areas is in reality sprawl itself. Atlanta already has dispersed areas of higher density that are not gravitated around any corridor or nodal area.

But I understand your point & most Atlantans agree with you (at least those here).

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- I do know I hate what they've done to Brookhaven, one of my favorite northside communities.

I know it's a matter of individual taste but I really like most of what's been done in Brookhaven. Nice-sized houses, set relatively close together and up close to the street, without the all the big sprawling lawns. In my opinion that makes for very sensible urban living, which I think is probably why those homes have been selling like hotcakes. A lot of similar developement is taking place over on the other side of Brookhaven in the Windor Park/Lyndhurst neighborhoods.

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^ Wait a second, let me clarify - Brookhaven Country Club. I have seen some other redevelopments in Brookhaven that I do like, especially the townhome project on the parking lot side of the MARTA station. But I don't like the mcmansions that have popped up in the Country Club, what should be historically preserved.

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^ Wait a second, let me clarify - Brookhaven Country Club. I have seen some other redevelopments in Brookhaven that I do like, especially the townhome project on the parking lot side of the MARTA station. But I don't like the mcmansions that have popped up in the Country Club, what should be historically preserved.

teshadoh, I think most of the area around the Country Club (both Fulton and DeKalb Counties) is in the Brookhaven Historic District and is listed on the National Register. So they may have some restrictions on what they can do. Again, it's a matter of individual taste but while they have certainly built some big houses in that part of town most of them look really nice to me.

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That is what I wanted to confirm - because, that honestly isn't that great of a plan. Atlanta does indeed need to densify, but it requires densification in the right places - regional & neighborhood centers as well as corridors where appropriate. Otherwise, Atlanta was not developed to be a city of high density, the street & transit, & utility infrastructure would not be able to accomadate higher densities anywhere inside the Perimeter. ITP is actually a vast area, which also includes undeveloped areas as well as typical post WWII suburbs. Increasing density without regard to infrastructure or concentrating on existing dense areas is in reality sprawl itself. Atlanta already has dispersed areas of higher density that are not gravitated around any corridor or nodal area.

But I understand your point & most Atlantans agree with you (at least those here).

True, and creating this LRT corridor in puting in the needed infrastructure to facilitiate the desired developments. I don't know enough about all of the areas that this affects, but surely its a step in the rigiht direction for Atlanta.

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I am conflicted by this situation.

image_1856678.jpg

Mind you, I know how most people feel about McMansions.

It might be interesting to talk some more about what, in our opinion, constitutes a "McMansion" and what are perceived to be its pros and cons. The larger house in the photo above, for example, doesn't strike me as being inappropriate. But when is a house "too big"?

When I was growing up here it seemed the implicit assumption was that it was fine to build bigger and bigger homes, so long as you went further and further away from the city. Is that still good logic? Or was it in the first place?

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Possibly one problem may be - the understood idea of a 'mansion' was one that was either on a semi-rural 'estate', such as suburban areas or in an urban environment. The difference between the two, wasn't just the ratio of home square footage to lot, but the setbacks. A mansion in an urban neighborhood may have the same ratio of house to lot size as suburban mcmansions - but the urban mansion had greater street interaction & fitted the urban environment. The modern mcmansion, is largely in semi-suburban areas & lacks that street environment, yet it has a similar house size to lot size ratio.

What I am getting at - is the mcmansion is covering more impervious surface than the typical suburban home, yet it still retains a suburban tone. Though urban homes have low house to lot size ratios as well, it is understood they do so due to the urban needs of smaller lot sizes. So when we are all discussing increasing density, smarter growth - these mcmansions are in complete opposition to that need.

This leads back to what spartan said - about increasing density. I don't agree with increasing higher density everywhere, but I do agree to increasing higher 'single family' density everywhere. So what should be occuring to these lots, isn't a mcmansion, but splitting the lots in order to increase density. These mcmansion, quite often are only occupied by a couple or at most a very small family.

Perhaps it is a matter of aesthetic taste, but when the issue of impervious surface, the need for increased density, or simply retaining the character of an existing neighborhood are all major issues - the mcmansion is an affront to those goals.

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teshadoh, thanks for your thoughts.

I'm still not sure what people mean by "McMansion." To me it carries a derisive connotation, the "Mc", I presume, being a reference to the bland sameness that's associated with fast food. However, the "cookie cutter" label could just as easily be applied to the Craftsman bungalows of the 1920s, the ranch houses of the 1960s, or the Williamsburg 2-stories that were popularized in the 70s and 80s. My personal feeling is that many of the newer large urban homes I've seen are actually rather creative and diverse in design. If they are bringing families back into cities who might otherwise have migrated to the burbs, then I don't see them as antithetical to intelligent urban growth, at least not on the theory that they are too similar.

It would help me to understand how big is "too big." How much land should a house have? The concept of 2500 sf houses on 1/2 acre lots that was popular 40-50 years or so ago may not provide enough density for a modern city. On the other hand, maybe people in the South still want sizeable front yards, or perhaps they simply don't like a two story facade close to the street.

Sometimes the issue of the "character" of a neighborhood can also be slippery. The neighborhood I live in has been through several incarnations, with a number of larger houses dating back to the 1920s or earlier, with subsequent sprinklings of bungalows and very individualized homes in the 40s and 50s, ranches in the 60s, and many major renovations, teardowns and new homes in the last couple of decades. We've also had a lot of cluster homes, townhomes and mid and highrise condos built around here.

While I think good design (urban and otherwise) requires sensitivity to surroundings, I'm still stuggling a bit with exactly what constitutes a "McMansion", and I'm not ready to say that large homes per se are an affront to the sensible growth of cities. For instance, I don't see the house in the photo above as being too big or out of keeping with the size of its lot. I'd love to hear people articulate more specfically what they see as too big or too dense, maybe with some actual examples.

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For those of you in the Atlanta news market:

Carol Sbarge of WSB TV Channel 2 ActionNews will be doing a story on the infill dilema Monday October 24th. It will be on the 6pm newscast. It will have both those for and against infill development and their reasons. Just thought I would either remind or inform those who are interested.

Disclaimer: I do not work for WSB TV or their parent company Cox Communication. I just thought that this would be an interesting story to watch since it was discussed here. :)

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