As the City of Atlanta has grown and matured, its zoning ordinances have become more complicated. Throughout my career, I’ve seen first-hand how these ordinances have shifted projects, especially when the owner does not know what can be done with the lot. Surprisingly, these ordinances are often unknown. The simple act of expanding a house or building on an in-town lot can be restricted by the lot’s zoning classification and possible overlays, such as historic districts, the Atlanta Beltline, or Special Interest Districts. How these overlays can restrict zoning and development needs to be deciphered through due diligence.
What to Consider
Before the Project
Jones Pierce has successfully guided client projects through the various overlays and metro Atlanta zoning classifications. We always start a project with an initial due diligence that includes:
- A property survey and a code summary of applicable zoning
- Building codes depending on the project
Both of these are important for determining what structures can be built and where they can be built on the property. Additionally, the City of Atlanta and several surrounding communities have implemented strict storm water ordinances to help mitigate the increased needs on the infrastructure. One of Atlanta’s assets is our tree canopy. Therefore, tree ordinances exist to preserve the canopy. Other restrictions found from surveys include streams, flood plains, and any utility lines and/or other legal easements.
During the Project
Those little surprises can shift the best laid plans. It’s best to know them from the start. A strategy needs to be developed to mitigate the obstruction, or work around it, depending on what the issue is. For example, common issues that we have had to overcome include:
- Unidentified sewer lines or alleys that are officially closed but not recorded by the City and County
- Neighboring trees with critical root zones that extend into the property
- Existing buildings built over the setbacks
These are time delays, but they can be overcome and addressed. Ideally, they are addressed before the project moves forward and a large amount of money is committed.
Proactive Uses of Due Diligence
We have worked with several small investors and homeowners seeking lots to build on. By providing quick due diligence summaries, they can assess whether the property meets their investment needs. Where community restrictions on architecture are in place, we provide a preliminary design package for the architectural review. These reviews by committee can often be subjective. However, a presentation based on adherence of the architectural guidelines can diffuse the review.
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