Zoning Board Tables 315 W. Ponce Variance

At least 125 residents crammed themselves into the confines of the city hall meeting room last night to hear and respond to 315 developers application for a parking variance. When asked about contingency planning and theoretical conditions, the representitives for the developer seemed flexible. They agreed to small conditions proposed by the board (like including Flexcar in the parking lot, dedicated parking for scooters) and even one large one (that the owner would have to reapply for a variance if the property was ever converted to condos – due to dedicated parking concerns).

After hearing the plans and arguments of JLB thru the owner, architect, and traffic and parking consultants, the massive crowd was asked to respond.

Only 4 folks stood up in favor of the development, even though murmurings within the crowd seemed to be rather mixed, and of those only one lived in the affected area.

It wasn’t until 10-10:30p that chair Mark Burnette asked to hear the opposition. It didn’t take long to see where this meeting was going…other than late into the night. Local resident Jeff Davis stood and argued that a. the applicant’s application was not complete b. that the board didn’t have the authority to approve a parking variance because the city code doesn’t identify shared parking between residential and office according to 8.1.5) and c. that the proceedings were invalid because they weren’t conducted in precisely the correct way. (Chair Burnette took particular exception to this final point) Everyone still in the room, not privy to the strategy of the neighborhood beforehand, now saw it clearly through sleepy eyes.

Go after the legality of the “concept” of shared parking and stall the process.

Davis then called up a Livable Growth-retained parking consultant, who argued that the developer’s parking estimates were much too low according to a different “national” calculation.

After that rather tense back-and-forth, residents of the neighborhood started speaking up…Pat Davis reiterated Jeff Davis’ statements that the board could not grant a variance for something that the city had not approved (the concept of “shared parking”). She also noted that Livable Growth’s petition had received over 1,000 signatures. It was 11:30p when Steven Saunders approached the commission with a cardboard and Styrofoam model of the property…and I realized I wouldn’t make it to the end. There were lots of residents itching to speak after waiting patiently through the first few opponents. So I left…defeated by lots of questions and concerns and an 8:30p start-time.

So how do I know the issue was tabled? Because Creative Loafing’s Thomas Wheatley has a stronger constitution than I…plus he gets paid. Not only did he stay ’til the end, but he also wrote about it on Fresh Loaf…all before 3am! It’s a definite read to hear how things turned out, plus he got to hear DeKalb Commissioner Kathy Gannon (a 335 W. Ponce resident) express her concerns about the development. I had seen her at the back of the room…but wasn’t sure if she would speak up.

So the issue is tabled and I’m unclear of next steps. If anyone would like to fill me in, I would greatly appreciate it. If not, I’m sure Wheatley can fill us in when he wakes up.