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bfermanich

McMansion moratorium for Atlanta

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Deleted! Only a few lines at most can be quoted from a news paper. Its better to summarize

The rest of the story can be read here,

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...0metinfill.html

I just want to know what everyone thinks about this? Is it smart? Or will it hold back our inner city neighborhoods from progress?

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I just want to know what everyone thinks about this? Is it smart? Or will it hold back our inner city neighborhoods from progress?

I think it's a very bad approach. Although I'm strongly in favor of preserving neighborhoods, this is working with a meat cleaver when we need to be developing context-sensitive guidelines, with broad community input and support, tailored to the needs of specfic areas.

This "one size fits all" solution won't work for Atlanta. There's a commonality to the architecture within Lake Claire and certain parts of Virginia-Highland, for instance, which does not exist within neighborhoods like Ansley or North Buckhead.

At a time when the movement of people back into Atlanta is beginning to gain serious momentum, we don't need to crush it out with short-sighted, non-neighborhood oriented approaches like this. Atlanta needs a housing stock that can attract and retain families on an equal basis with the suburbs. We need to be looking for creative and attractive solutions to that, not simply trying to impose uniform height restrictions, etc.

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I believe as I do with all new developments (housing and retail), the established neighborhood surroundings and environment should be taken into account when building new homes. Although I do not live in the city and can't comment directly on these "McMansions" going up, I know what its like to see new "out-of-place" looking homes going up in our neighborhood.

These types of houses can take away from the beauty of the area and, in some cases, even lower property value of other homes.

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These types of houses can take away from the beauty of the area and, in some cases, even lower property value of other homes.

I agree with your comments on aesthetics, however I don't like government interfering with my rights as a property owner.

And IMO everything else comes second place to individual rights and freedoms, including property rights. Else we live in a government-controled-state with no or only partial freedom to individuals. It scares me when my freedoms get taken away, especially fundamental freedoms like property rights. What is next? We've already got eminent domain. After they impliment this what will they try to take away next? An executive order from Shirley Franklin saying that every house must have cedar shingles?

That said, I also believe in maintaining neighborhood character, but not at the expense of new development that has the potential to revitalize and reenergize old, functionally-obsolete neighborhoods.

Lets face it -- many Atlanta neighborhoods, dominated by WWII era housing and 60

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Government has a right to enforce land-use rules through zoning ordiances and building codes, but if a house is built to answer to those standards, it's not fair to halt it on aesthetic grounds, especially if it's not in a planned community. Taste is subjective, but property rights are paramount.

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The cry of property rights only extends so far. Once your property has infringed on my life, liberty and pursuit...you have gone too far and the law no longer protects you. Extremely large homes are being built on lots that were meant to accomodate bungelows or ranch houses. These monstrosities often block light from the windows of their next door neighbors and, when built too close to the property line can actually present a fire hazard due to the lack of space between two structures. Numerous court precedents have established that their ARE limits to individual property rights. Living in an urban setting with neighbors so close requires a little bit of flexibility and compromise...something you suburbanites apparantly don't understand.

Also, remember that what mayor Franklin did was put a moratorium on these houses until the city council can debate the merits of the bill. It is my hope that what finally emerges are codes that respect the uniqueness and beauty of our intown neighborhoods while still protecting the rights of homeowners.

PS - anyone who lives in Suburbia needs to shut up with regards to this. The last thing I need is to listen to someone who lives in the land of stucco, vinyl siding and cookie cutter subdivisions to lecture me on how to protect our neighborhoods. Jump in your Hummer, drive down to your local strip mall and beotch to someone who gives a rats a** about your ideas.

PPS - That rant wasn't aimed at anyone on this forum, I just read the ajc blog on this issue and the lack of intelligent thought just pisses me off. Must be a product of Georgia public schools

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I, too, read the blog for the article and wasn't pleased with some of the knee-jerk reactions.

The irony is, the same suburbanites that are screaming about an infringement on people's property rights are probably living in vinyl-siding, cookie cutter subdivisions where a homeowner's association is telling them how many pansies they can plant in their front yards. :wacko:

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In my hometown of Lansing, we have laws regarding how close someone can build to the property line and how large a structure can be (as I'm sure Atlanta does too). These laws are suspended if a structure doesn't meet the requirements, but fits with "the character of the neighborhood." For instance, if you take a neighborhood of bungalows of 50' wide lots and nice setbacks, you can't build a 45' wide two story house 5' from the sidewalk. But if you are in a neighborhood of 33' foot wide lots, two story houses and 5' setbacks (which are somewhat common) you can build a house that fits in with that without a public hearing, even though current zoning does not allow that. If someone wants to build a structure that does not meet standard zoning and does not apply to the "neighborhood character" rule, they still may be able to, but it will require a public hearing and city council approval, which means neighbors can voice their opinions at the public hearing. To me this is the ideal system, it allows for maximum efficiency and fairness in all circumstances.

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I'm strongly in favor of protecting historic neighborhoods. It seems to me that only a blockhead would want to do otherwise.

However, what seems bizarre and backwards about the current action is that we already have very specific laws on the books to accomplish that exact thing. The city's zoning code authorizes the creation of special overlay zoning districts to protect neighborhoods which have historic, architectural, and/or cultural significance. If I'm not mistaken this has been the law for nearly 30 years.

These protections already apply in many neighborhoods, such Cabbagetown, Druid Hills, West End, Adair Park, Washington Park, Inman Park, Whittier Mill, MLK, Grant Park, etc. There are several levels of protection, ranging from Landmark District (the most rigid) to Historic Distict to Conservation District. You can have subareas and transitional zones in those neighborhoods if you want. You can make things subject to the approval of the Urban Design Commission, and you can be as ultra-specific as you want, all the way down to specifying landscape, door and window size, building materials, wood trim, paint colors, and so forth.

It's specifically stated in most areas which are deemed landmark, historic or conservation districts that the intent of the special zoning overlay is to preserve the architectural, cultural and aesthetic character of the neighborhood. These overlays provide tremendous protection for many older neighborhoods.

Granted, getting your neighborhood designated as a protected district takes some work, but it's by no means impossible. The fact that probably a dozen or more areas have already done so makes that obvious.

But frankly, not every lot, house, street or neighborhood in Atlanta is of great architectural significance. A lot of them are outmoded, underdeveloped, vacant, delapidated or just plain boring. It's the nature of every great city to continually reinvent itself, and to grow by enhancing and improving areas that are maybe not so hot. It would ridiculous to insist that everything built in Atlanta remain in a static condition, and that new construction can only be "compatible" with its neighbors. If that were the case I could insist that all the ranches and bungalows that were added to my street 20, 30 or 40 years after my house was built be removed, on the gronds that I was here first and that in my opinion they simply don't fit in.

My feeling is that we have now -- and have had for years -- excellent ways to preserve neighborhoods, right down to the nth degree. Yeah, you may have to get on the stick and get organized and show the city that you really are a neighborhood and that preserving things the way they are means enough to do something about it. I don't think you can simply sit back and do nothing, and then howl when when the guy next door decides he's ready to build something different. Not to be too blunt, but that's life in the city -- things change and grow and I don't think it's realistic to simply sit back, do nothing and say, "Well, I assumed everybody would do things the way I like it!"

The fact that we have long had the means to protect areas that we deem architecturally, culturally or historically significant is one of the main reasons I think this across-the-board ban is backwards. Infill didn't just start happening. Nor did many neighborhoods just start getting their act together and availing themselves of the preservation tools that are already on the books. A lot of them have already done so. All of these things have been happening for years.

I'm a huge fan of Mayor Franklin but I think she somehow missed the boat on this one. I'm at a loss to understand why such a ban was undertaken with no prior notice, no public hearings, and no community forums. I mean, what are we telling people who live in Atlanta or who might be thinking about moving here? "Don't plan on coming inside the Altanta city limits if you want a larger home to raise a family -- just go on up to Sandy Springs or move out to Roswell, Gwinnett or Banks County. We're strictly bungalow and ranch style folks here in the city." To me, that seems like an extremely unfortunate message to send out just as the city is starting to gain momentum again.

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I agree! I disagree! I agree! I disagree!

I am very torn on this one.

As a home owner who lives in an historic district I want future development in my hood to be respectful. BUT, in the big picture Atlanta is still 'nothing but a youth'. We have got so much growing up to do. What I mean to say is that where we are today is not where we are going. We still don't have a unique culture. You can't really say that's the Atlanta sound (hip hop has tried), you can't say that any style of food is Atlanta style cuisine. You can't say that any hood in Atlanta is unique (architectual). All of our hoods can be found in Charlotte, Nashville, or even Dayton, Ohio for that matter. Not until we have something unique do we need to go to such lengths to prevent change.

Right now our culture is change. We are a teen trying to figure out who we are and more importantly who we are going to be.

Ok. So I should have ended it there ^. But I just can't. If you're still with me then lets look at Paris. Houssmann destroyed the city with his hugh, obtrusive avenues... between 1853 and 1870. Paris is over 1,000 years old. The city we know today has only been around in the later years of it's long life.

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The City Council Zoning Committee this afternoon voted against the moratorium on infill building. Everyone was in agreement that it's important to give consideration to neighborhood character and preferences, but there was no consensus that the best way to accomplish this is by a blanket ban on new construction. I personally agree with that.

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It's a relief for me as well due to the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.

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Deleted! Only a few lines at most can be quoted from a news paper. Its better to summarize

The rest of the story can be read here,

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...0metinfill.html

I just want to know what everyone thinks about this? Is it smart? Or will it hold back our inner city neighborhoods from progress?

Headline: 'Panel frowns on 'McMansions' ban'

First reaction: Sanity Returns?

Link: http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...metcouncil.html

<A proposed temporary building ban on big houses in four desirable Atlanta neighborhoods got a "thumbs down" from an Atlanta City Council committee Wednesday, but it's still on track for a vote Feb. 6 by the full City Council. The 120-day moratorium failed by a 3-4 vote, in part because it did not cover enough of the city.>

Maybe not - Stay tuned.......

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NBC Nightly News had a story about McMansions (that's what they called them) taking over older neighborhoods nationwide. The story centered on Atlanta, and how the city government outlawed them at least for now. As you would expect, the developers cried foul, saying it was an infringment on other people's freedom. It had an interesting twist in the story though, they said that 30 years ago, kids couldn't wait to get out of thier parent's little bungalows, but now thier kids are flying back intown. The thing is, they are trying to fit thier big suburban lifestyles into tiny city neighborhoods, dwarfing thier neighbors. If this is the only way for cities to grow, maybe they should stay static afterall. They should save that crap for the suburbs.

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The thing is, they are trying to fit thier big suburban lifestyles into tiny city neighborhoods, dwarfing thier neighbors. If this is the only way for cities to grow, maybe they should stay static afterall. They should save that crap for the suburbs.

Why so? Many Atlanta neighborhoods began their life as suburbs 100 years or more ago. A large percentage of them (Inman Park, Buckhead, Druid Hills, Ansley Park, Brookhaven, and many, many others) are still characterized by single family residences on large lots with substantial setbacks. Many older homes in the city would dwarf those thrown up in the suburbs in recent decades.

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Andrea...there is a distinct difference between large homes in the city and the typical new large home in the burbs. If you don't think so, look at the large homes in the city that can be 70, 80,90 or even 100 years old. I wonder how the new homes in the burbs will look in even 40 years...if they're still standing at all. I respect the rights of property owners, but I think it would be an unbelievavble loss if Morningside or Ansley started to look like Windemere. New homes (no matter how well done) simply do not have the charm and feel of older homes.

On a personal note, I really don't want people who claim to "need" all of the room in their new McMansion as my neighbor. These are the same people who claim they simply can not get along without their armored personel carrier of an SUV. (Makes me wonder how my parents managed) Very...and I mean very... few people actually need that much space, or an SUV for that matter. Big difference between need and want. Part of the reason I moved into the city was to escape that supersized mentality. For those of you who do have so many children you actually need an SUV please look up "birth control" in the dictionary.

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Ryan, I agree with you about the charm of older homes. I don't think I've ever lived in a house built after the 1930's and that's my strong personal preference. However, I acknowledge that they were all new at some point. I've seen plenty of beautifully done new homes and renovations which I believe will stand the test of time equally well.

Of course there are also tons of older homes in the city (in neighborhoods like Inman Park, Buckhead, Druid Hills, Ansley Park, Brookhaven, and many other areas) which are larger than what people are calling "McMansions." So I don't think it's a question of size alone.

It gets even more complex. My house was built in 1932, and then in the 1940's people started putting in smaller bungalows. Then in the 60's they started building ranches. Should I object that these are obnoxious McBungalows, or merely part of the ill-conceived McRanch craze, both of which are out of scale and character with my neighborhood?

And what about the mid-rise condos they added in the 70's, or the 25-story office building in the 80's, or the townhouses from the 90's? What (and who) now determines the standard for my neighborhood?

Because of considerations like these, I don't believe you can't take a "one size fits all" approach to the problem. I've lived in Lake Claire and in VA-Highland, and those neighborhoods have a consistency of style and scale that simply doesn't exist in many other neighborhoods. Guidelines need to be context sensitive and tailored to individual neighborhoods.

As you know, we already have (and have had for many years) explicit laws which allow neighborhoods to control what sort of building goes on. A lot of neighborhoods -- Cabbagetown, Druid Hills, West End, Adair Park, Washington Park, Inman Park, Whittier Mill, MLK, Grant Park, Oakland City, etc. -- have already chosen to avail themselves of these special zoning overlays and are therefore able to strictly control development. To do this, you do have to obtain consensus that it's in the best interest of the neighborhood, but isn't consensus the way things are supposed to work?

P.S. I don't want Morningside or Ansley to look like Windemere either, but does anyone actually believe that is happening? If so, things have changed dramatically since I passed through there this morning.

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For those of you who do have so many children you actually need an SUV please look up "birth control" in the dictionary.

[sarcasim]

Actually, any family with more than, say 2 kids, (an absolutely HUGE family by any stretch of the imagination) would necessitate something larger than a car so an SUV is actually a very logical choice.

[/sarcasim]

And about the birth control, google "natural family planning". (Yes, I'm Catholic)

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Because of considerations like these, I don't believe you can't take a "one size fits all" approach to the problem. I've lived in Lake Claire and in VA-Highland, and those neighborhoods have a consistency of style and scale that simply doesn't exist in many other neighborhoods. Guidelines need to be context sensitive and tailored to individual neighborhoods.

I couldn't have said it better.

I'm truly conflicted on this one.

On the one hand, one of my favorite houses in Ansley is that Modern Industrial looking house on The Prado as you approach Peactree Circle. On the other, neighborhoods that have maintained a similar style and scale, as you so well put it, should be protected. Areas that have not kept their historical structures should be allowed to transition into whatever they eventually become.

I am really curious to see what happens to the SFR section of Midtown. Very little remains of the stately old homes that once lined Argonne, Durant, Penn and the others. The board of the neighborhood association asked to be placed on the list for the moratoriam at our last meeting (now it's a moot point), but I'm not sure I want Midtown to seek protected status either through whatever comes from the new legislation at City Hall or through historical district status (which we are currently seeking). I've always thought that since the historical integrity of the neighborhood has already been so compromised, the area should be upgraded to a higher density. I've always pictured that area as perfect for true townhomes, in the same vein as Georgetown or the Back Bay of Boston.

And yes, since this morning Morningside has been torn down and replaced with tract homes. The subdivision has been named Whispering Oak in honor of all the trees the developer had to cut down to build the it.

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I agree Andrea for the most part. There was a story about it today again in the AJC. It told about how certain neighborhoods are thinking about the need to make them more compatible with the existing neighborhood. That's entirely what I meant by that. Don't just barge in and try to cram a big 5,500 sq. ft. house into a tiny lot. You cannot fit a suburban house in most inner city areas. They need to either create a new neighborhood in the city for those sizes, or, as the AJC suggested, sort of set them back a little, or make them so they don't tower over the neighbors. There must be some sort of compromise when you live amidst thousands of other people. It's one of the sacrifices of city life. You're not the only one around. Also, by the way, I don't have a problem with tear downs as long as the home is of little historic or structural value. But wiping out Druid Hills or something and replacing it with what springs up in most suburbs would be a tragedy.

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But wiping out Druid Hills or something and replacing it with what springs up in most suburbs would be a tragedy.

Er, as I mentioned above, Druid Hills got organized years ago, and applied for and received designation as a Landmark District. The neighbhorhood also created several very specific sub-areas within Druid Hills. Any development in Druid Hills has to meet the legal guidelines specified by the neighbhorhood and be approved by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. Nothing can be torn down or built in Druid Hills if it doesn't comply with these requirements. So wiping out Druid Hills (or any part of it) and replacing it with what springs up in the suburbs would be illegal, and has been illegal for many years.

You can read the law here if you'd like to see the details.

As I say, these laws have been on the books for 30 years or so. Many other neighborhoods -- Cabbagetown, West End, Adair Park, Washington Park, Inman Park, Whittier Mill, MLK, Grant Park, Oakland City, etc. -- have voluntarily elected to do the same thing. Neighborhoods which choose to do this are thus able to strictly control development.

To become designated as a historic, landmark or conservation district, you do have to obtain consensus from your neighbors that it's in the best interest of the neighborhood. But isn't consensus the way things are supposed to work? If you are interested in keeping your neighborhood the way it is, or in prohibiting certain types of development, the traditional way to do that is to go out and talk to your neighbors, set up neighborhood meetings, solicit everyone's views and input, and work on developing development guidelines that are approved and accepted by your community. Then you apply to the city for designation as a protected district, and once that's approved you're able to strictly control development.

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Er, as I mentioned above, Druid Hills got organized years ago, and applied for and received designation as a Landmark District. The neighbhorhood also created several very specific sub-areas within Druid Hills. Any development in Druid Hills has to meet the legal guidelines specified by the neighbhorhood and be approved by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. Nothing can be torn down or built in Druid Hills if it doesn't comply with these requirements. So wiping out Druid Hills (or any part of it) and replacing it with what springs up in the suburbs would be illegal, and has been illegal for many years.

I meant that figuratively, not literally. I stand by my statements that MOST suburban style houses don't belong in a city neighborhood like Druid Hills or Ansley Park, etc. There's got to be a compromise. I don't feel a person should be able to block out the sun from a neighbor just cuz he can. I think the houses should be built as similarly as possible to the current neighborhood. :)

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Just a realization - & I don't have any pictures to prove anything - but I don't mind many of the 'mcmansions' in my area: Ormewood Park, Grant Park, Inman Park, Edgewood. Only because many of these are technically mcmansion, due to their size, but the honestly don't look that bad or out of place in many cases. Just admitting that not all mcmansions look the same - like the mcmansion that is on the short street behind Murphy's in Va/Hi (that one is massive)

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I recently looked at one on Rosedale, I believe, and although it was large it was still very McVA-Highland. If you had 2 or 3 kids I could see how it could be a good place to raise a McIntownFamily.

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