At the City Council meeting this morning, the Council approved a motion by Council Member Clutterbuck to delay consideration of the high density ordinance for two more weeks. The Buckhead developers have also agreed to delay any permitting on the Ashby High Rise for this same two week period. The action to delay the ordinance for another two weeks was expected and was consistent with what City representatives had communicated to us as of last Thursday.
During his weekly press conference following the City Council meeting, however, Mayor White announced his intention to further delay action on the high density ordinance for several months so that public hearings can be held. We have also heard that it may be the Mayor’s intention to fold the high density ordinance into a more comprehensive traffic management ordinance being developed through Council Member Sue Lovell’s Transportation, Infrastructure, and Aviation Committee. We understand that the Mayor’s office will attempt during the next two weeks to secure an agreement by the Buckhead developers to extend their agreement not to seek any permits for the Ashby High Rise during the longer delay period contemplated by the Mayor. We are trying to confirm whether the Mayor intends to delay action on the high density ordinance even if the Buckhead developers do not agree to an additional delay.
THE MAYOR’S APPARENT INTENTION TO SEEK AN EXTENDED DELAY OF THE HIGH DENSITY ORDINANCE WAS NOT EXPECTED BY THE TASK FORCE, AND IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH NUMEROUS RECENT STATEMENTS MADE TO US BY CITY REPRESENTATIVES ABOUT THE PATH FORWARD FOR THE ORDINANCE PROCESS.
We also understand that the Mayor and others within the administration and on Council believe that the City has sufficient authority under existing ordinances, including the so-called “curb cut” ordinance, to achieve results equivalent to the results expected from the high density ordinance. The “curb cut” ordinance allows the city engineer, who is appointed by the Mayor, to refuse a driveway permit application if he or she finds that the proposed use of the driveway “would create an extraordinary traffic hazard or would excessively interfere with the normal use of the street right-of-way.” By using its existing ordinance authority, the City may be able to avoid the legal question of vested rights that could form the basis for a challenge to an ordinance, such as the high density ordinance, that was enacted after the Buckhead developers had already submitted a permit application.
We continue to believe that the high density ordinance approach being considered by the City would survive a vested rights challenge and would be an effective tool to address the objectionable impacts of the Ashby High Rise as proposed. We appreciate that drafting a quality ordinance takes time and input from many sources. If there are other equally effective approaches to achieve the same result as the high density ordinance, we would support their use, but we do not believe that the ordinance approach should be abandoned or unnecessarily delayed if the Buckhead developers are free to pursue permits for their project while the City decides on its preferred course of action.
It is accurate to say that we have more questions than answers at this point, and we are in active discussions with City representatives to learn more about these developments and what they portend for the Stop Ashby High Rise effort.
These dramatic changes in course highlight the dynamic nature of this controversy and the need for all of us to follow developments closely. Mayor White has made his position about the Ashby High Rise project absolutely clear in previous statements, and he reiterated his determination to use all legal means to prevent the project from being built as proposed during the City Council’s public session on Tuesday. At this same session, the Mayor assured us that the City has tools at its disposal, including the curb cut ordinance, to prevent this project from being built as planned. We also understand that during an interview with the Chronicle this afternoon, the Mayor stated that the City had recently conducted a study and found that the traffic on Bissonnet was currently at 95% of capacity and that a large scale development like the Ashby High Rise would create an unacceptable level of service.
While we may be disappointed that the Mayor has apparently decided to hold off on a promising mechanism that could reduce the impacts of the Ashby High Rise project, we have no reason to believe that anyone from the City is acting in bad faith. We should not stop contacting the Mayor’s office and City Council members to show our support for the City’s commitment to the BOCA and Southampton neighborhoods and to register our expectations.
We will keep all of you informed as more developments occur. We are in this for the long run, and we appreciate your continued support and enthusiasm.