The Midtown Neighbors' Association (MNA) has voted to oppose a Special Administrative Permit (SAP) for the “Uptown Station,” located at the edge of the Ansley Park neighborhood at 1521 Peachtree Street, on the grounds that the applicant has consistently failed to present a set of comprehensive plans to the community.
Despite the objections of several area neighborhoods, most notably Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest, the proprietor of the proposed 24-hour service station and convenience store in north Midtown was granted a license this month to sell beer and wine by the city's License Review Board (LRB).
At the December Midtown SPI-16 & SPI-17 Development Review Committee (DRC) meeting, it was recommended that the Uptown Station applicant, Decatur businessman Alex Panjwani, meet with the land use committee chairs of the affected neighborhoods to review the revised plans for the SAP and to discuss project concerns.
Among the project facts:
- 1400 sq. ft. of retail space to be added between former gas station and former car wash building. Space to be used as a convenience store and retail space.
- Existing gasoline islands and canopies to be left in place and re-used.
- Rear area that was former car wash building to be converted to retail space, possibly a Dunkin Donut.
- In addition a 20ft landscape strip will be added at the rear of the property with appropriate trees to screen the adjacent residential property and a 5ft landscape strip will be added on the Peachtree Circle side with the appropriate trees as required.
According to the MNA Land Use Committee (LUC), the applicant refused to meet with the group, and because of such, the MNA board voted unanimously this past week to oppose the SAP. According to the Midtown group: “The MNA firmly believes that applicants should demonstrate a willingness to respect the process and work with the community when they seek our support for their applications. This applicant has routinely demonstrated he will not and we are convinced he will not in the future.”
Panjwani, who has been accused in recent weeks of not following through with meetings with representatives of Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest to discuss concerns, could not be reached for comment.
More from the MNA:
The Midtown Neighbor’s Association Land Use Committee and Board of Directors were requested to comment on this application by the Development Review Committee of SPI-16 as part of its overall assessment of the SAP. The MNA appreciates the applicant’s intent to reopen the gas station and to make additions suitable to the addition of a neighborhood oriented convenience store, but notes that the necessary expansion of the overall square footage of the existing structure triggers the need to conform to all aspects of the SPI-16 zoning ordinance. Of additional concern to the MNA is the impact of the proposal on quality of life issues related to the general population and specifically to the directly affected residents on adjacent properties.
The MNA is concerned that the applicant has refused to comply with the DRC request to meet with the neighborhood representatives. This action demonstrates the applicant’s blatant disregard for both the process and the community which he claims to serve.
The MNA acknowledges that the applicant was also applying for a liquor license which came through the NPU-E process. That process yielded a recommendation with conditions to be worked out with the Chairs of the License and Permit Committees of the affected neighborhoods. Those conditions were a restriction on the hours of sales that excluded sales between 12 midnight and 6am. The MNA is disappointed that the applicant did not come to resolution with the community in that process. We do acknowledge that the city has since granted the license. But note that this did not negate the necessity of meeting the requirements of the DRC to meet with the Chairs of the LUC Committees to discuss concerns regarding the SAP.
Consistent with the expressed concerns of the DRC, the MNA is concerned with pedestrian safety around the perimeter of the site and appropriate landscaping and buffering between the gas station and the adjacent single family neighborhood to the east. The MNA supports in full the following comments and requests of the DRC.
Curb Cuts – Presently there are 2 curb cuts along each frontage. The SPI-16 zoning regulations allow one curb cut per street frontage. It is recommended that the two curb cuts closest to the corner be removed and that the remaining curb cuts not exceed 24-feet in width. Removing the curb cuts nearest the corner would improve traffic flow and stacking for the signal at the intersection. It would also allow for a safer and more clearly defined travel path for pedestrians.
Streetscape – The streetscapes along Peachtree Street and Peachtree Circle should be brought into compliance with the standard Midtown streetscape requirements.
- Peachtree Street – The sidewalk along Peachtree should be widened as much as feasible based on a reduction in the width of the drive aisle for the adjacent gas pump. The max width needed for the drive aisle is 10-feet. The goal along this stretch is to provide a safe and clearly delineated path for pedestrians with a minimum sidewalk width of 5-feet for ADA accessibility. If there is space left over after the 5-foot sidewalk is achieved (maintaining a 10-foot drive aisle), a landscape buffer should be added. To save expense, a curb could be added against the drive lane. If the curb cut nearest the corner can be removed, then the installation of two new street trees within the 5-foot furniture zone between the curb and expanded sidewalk is recommended. The overhead utilities in this section are in the process of being buried underground, resulting in a new mast arm at the corner for the traffic signal.
- Peachtree Circle – once the curb cut is removed, two trees should be added in the furniture zone nearest the corner.
- However, in order to achieve the typical streetscape layout, one existing tree would have to be removed. Thus, reps from Ansley Park should determine if this is preferred. Since this is a residential street and the furniture zone is planted with grass, it is recommended that grass is used in the new furniture zone to match existing conditions. Lighting – the applicant is requested to provide a spec for the proposed light fixtures so that staff in the Office of Planning can verify the cut-off angle and appropriate placement to minimize light spillage to the adjacent single family home.
MNA LAND USE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Landscape Buffer – the evergreen trees along the east edge of the site should be spaced in a manner that creates a visual buffer or hedge between the gas station and the adjacent single family home. It is recommended that two rows of trees be planted in a staggered pattern spaced at 10-15 feet on center.
The MNA views the Landscape Buffer as an important condition consistent with similar cases throughout the neighborhood. In other instances where a commercial property directly affronts an R-5 property all other applicants have been asked to present to the LUC comprehensive plans that indicate either or both; designs for a wooden fence no taller than 6 feet, landscape plans that designate the specific type of planting material (worked out in conjunction with the directly affected neighbor), specific spacing of material and assurances that such material and spacing will satisfy the intention of the buffer. That intention is to screen both light pollution from the parking areas as well as mitigate sound transmission. The MNA notes that it has not been presented with any such plans.
The ultimate concern of the MNA and the primary function of the LUC, is to maintain the quality of life within the district, a charge that is given high priority within the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Atlanta. That charge includes maintenance of high standards, adherence to the ordinances and codes, ensuring ADA accessibility, mitigating conditions that may create an unsafe condition or disturb the peace. We also see our role as ensuring that businesses have a healthy working relationship with the community to ensure their mutual success.
The MNA is concerned that the applicant has consistently failed to produce a comprehensive set of plans, been unable to provide adequate answers to concerns raised and more recently been unwilling to meet with the community to discuss the expressed concerns or present updated plans within the specified time frame designated by the city. Furthermore, the MNA views these actions as an indication that the applicant will not be a working partner with the community. This raises concerns regarding the impact of this application on the Quality of Life of residents of this community. We view the issue of liquor sale hours in the business operator’s previous application to be additional support of this conclusion.
Without a formal presentation of the final plans that demonstrate compliance with both the zoning ordinance and the specified concerns of the DRC and affected neighbors, and in the absence of evidence of a willing partnership in addressing these concerns the MNA is left with no option but to make a recommendation to oppose this SAP.