City of Griffin Quality Growth Audit. Prepared by Atlanta Regional Commission Staff June Atlanta Regional Commission

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1 City of Griffin Quality Growth Audit Prepared by Atlanta Regional Commission Staff June 2009 Atlanta Regional Commission

2 Atlanta Regional Commission Community Choices staff spent several months conducting a comprehensive review of the City s official planning documents. Document analyzed include: the City of Griffin Zoning Ordinance and Development Regulations; the Griffin Town Center Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) Study; the 2024 Comprehensive Plan; and the North Hill Street Master Plan. The objectives of this review were to: a. Ensure that these various documents support the city s stated planning goals and facilitate quality growth; and to b. Ensure coordination among and between the various codes, regulations and policies that guide the City of Griffin planning process. The following common goals and planning principles have been extracted directly from the various documents that were part of this study. These goals served as the framework of the observations and recommendations in this report and include: Development of low- to high-density mixed use districts in the downtown area Adaptive reuse of historic buildings Infill housing in single-family residential neighborhoods Revitalization of downtown core commercial Housing options throughout downtown area Development of mixed use zones along North Hill Street Provision of needed public open spaces and building sites in new land developments through the dedication or reservation of land for environmental, recreation, and other public purposes Development of pedestrian friendly corridors Preservation historic characteristics of town center Enhancement of Griffin's identity and sense of place Increase connections to UGA-Griffin Campus, Medical Center, Sun City Provide access for a range of travel modes Integration of uses and land use policies/regulations with transportation investments Following are observations and short and long term recommendations that may further enhance future coordination and implementation of planning efforts within the City of Griffin. 1

3 Goals: Development of low- to high-density mixed use districts in the downtown area; Revitalization of downtown core commercial The zoning ordinance is vague about the specific types of retail allowed in the downtown area. Walkable retail/residential districts are composed of a certain type of retail store; not any retail store will help create a safe, pedestrian friendly district. Specify the businesses that are desired in the downtown area to encourage their development. Ex. Language: Zoning Ordinance Sec Add to permitted uses: athletic and health clubs, barber and beauty shops, bed and breakfast inns, dry cleaning pickup establishment, copy centers, grocery and food stores, lumber and hardware stores, movie theaters, pharmacies and drug stores, Ex. Language: Zoning Ordinance Sec Include the following uses under Retail business : Book and video stores (non-adult), Camera shops, Florists, Drug stores, Gift shops, Toy stores, Pet grooming and supply shops, Jewelry stores, Pawn shops, Office supplies, Sporting goods and hobbies, Apparel stores, Furniture, home furnishings and equipment stores, Beverage shops. Goals: Adaptive reuse of historic buildings Housing options through downtown area The zoning ordinance currently allows only efficiencies or loft apartments on second floors over shops downtown. Consider expanding residential options to one- and two-bedroom apartments in more buildings downtown or allowing the conversion of buildings with former uses other than residential to living units. This will aid in restoration and repopulation of the downtown area. Ex. Language: Zoning Ordinance Sec Amend efficiency or loft apartment over ground floor retail to read efficiency, loft, one- or twobedroom apartment over ground floor retail or office. 2

4 Goal: Creation of pedestrian-oriented mixed use centers An observation mentioned in many plans for the City state the need for a true mixeduse zoning category that incorporates residential and commercial space. Most notably, the recommendation is evidenced in the Downtown Redevelopment Plan, the 2024 Comprehensive Plan and the North Hill Street Master Plan. The Downtown Redevelopment Plan states, Current development trends in senior independent living communities favor either a location near a traditional urban mix of uses, or including a mixed-use component in new projects. Given that the conventional residential market is limited in downtown, that seniors represent the best new market possibility for housing demand and that a mixed-use product is common among senior/affordable developers, the City should strongly consider pursuing this theme with future developments in downtown. 1 The 2024 Comprehensive Plan states Mixed Use as a future land use category, This category allows a combination of residential, office, retail and parks and open space. Vertically mixed use buildings are encouraged such as housing or offices above ground-floor retail space. Pedestrian circulation within the development should be promoted including sidewalks, street trees, and pedestrian amenities. 2 Further, the goals of the North Hill Street Master Plan include, Establishing pedestrian-oriented mixed use centers that support walking; connecting existing and new centers with multi-modal transportation enhancements, including new sidewalks, multi-use trails, bike lanes, and vehicular upgrades; and utilizing open spaces and tree-lined streets to link destinations and improve recreational options These recommendations will guide growth along North Hill Street in a way that improves the corridor for all users and achieves walkable mixed use centers, safe tree-lined sidewalks, preserved historic resources, compatible new development and a balanced transportation system. 3 The current zoning ordinance does not support this type of development through a dedicated zoning category. The Planned Commercial Development (PCD) category does 1 Griffin, GA Downtown Redevelopment Plan, Produced by Urban Collage, Inc., Future Land Use Plan, City of Griffin 2024 Comprehensive Plan, Produced by Jordan Jones & Goulding, Future Land Use Categories, 7-12, sec North Hill Street Master Plan, Produced by Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, North Hill Street Vision: Framework Plan, 35. 3

5 not provide for pedestrian-scale development along the street front. The PCD is most commonly used in communities to bring order to big box retail developments. It does not include the considerations that must be a part of regulation of street front, pedestrian scale development. The Neighborhood Business District (NBD) category touches on the needed mixed use designation, specifying allowable uses. But the physical requirements (lot width, front and side yard setbacks) and parking requirements may need to be altered to reach the true vision of the North Hill Street mixed use goal. A mixed-use zoning category that includes specific requirements on orientation, placement, and size of buildings, pedestrian connections, and context and interaction with surrounding uses should be adopted for application to areas in downtown and along North Hill Street, as the plans suggest. Some specific requirements that should be included in such a category are outlined in the North Hill Street Master Plan, in a section entitled Commercial Character Standards. These include architectural standards common to commercial areas within mixed use zoning categories. While the City will need to create a mixed use zoning category that takes into account the specific character of its neighborhoods and commercial areas, the following resources have been provided as a starting point. Sample Mixed Use District Language Appendix A Acworth, GA Mixed Use District Conyers, GA Mixed Use District Goal: Provision of needed public open spaces and building sites in new land developments through the dedication or reservation of land for environmental, recreation, and other public purposes There is currently no provision for land acquisition for city purposes or within subdivisions. s If in the future there is available land accompanied with sufficient demand, the City may consider adopting a conservation subdivision zoning category in order to preserve land for recreational and environmental purposes. Sample Conservation Subdivision Ordinance Appendix B Nashville, TN Conservation Subdivision Fact Sheet Nashville, TN Conservation Subdivision Ordinance 4

6 The City may consider limiting the square footage of surface parking lots in order to preserve land for environmental purposes. One way this is accomplished is through the inclusion of a requirement in the zoning ordinance to construct all parking areas in excess of the minimum required spaces out of pervious paving materials. Ex. Language: All parking spaces in excess of the minimum number required by the Griffin Zoning Ordinance shall be constructed of pervious paving materials. Sample Pervious Paving Ordinance Appendix C Goal: Development of pedestrian friendly corridors Some uses incompatible with the vision of the Central Business District category are allowed by right in the current zoning ordinance. Omit uses that are in opposition. For example, newspaper publishing facility, commercial storage, wholesale business, storage structures. These uses are more appropriate along less pedestrian friendly arterials and highways. Some parcels adjacent to the downtown area and along corridors that have as a stated goal pedestrian friendly development, are zoned planned commercial development (PCD). This designation includes some permitted uses that are in opposition to the type of development desired. Omit uses that are in opposition. For example, newspaper publishing facility, commercial greenhouse/nursery, mini-warehouse, funeral home. These uses are more appropriate along less pedestrian friendly arterials and highways. Some parcels adjacent to the downtown, most notably along the railroad, are zoned planned industrial development (PID). This designation includes some permitted uses that are in opposition to the type of development desired in the downtown area. Omit uses that are in opposition. For example, light industrial, heavy equipment rental, warehouse, utility distribution, newspaper publishing, central trash collection dumpsters, 5

7 outside storage of junk, salvage materials. These uses are more appropriate in industrial parks or along less pedestrian friendly arterials. Goal: Provide access for a range of travel modes The planned residential development (PRD) and planned commercial development (PCD) zoning categories require the construction of sidewalks throughout the development to serve pedestrians. However, this requirement, while a stated goal, is not included in all zoning categories. Include required construction of sidewalks in all zoning categories to provide consistent access to pedestrians throughout the city. This serves children, seniors and the disabled in navigating around areas of the city dominated by automobile traffic and unsafe streets. General organization of documents As the goal of the zoning ordinance and the development regulations is to coordinate growth and development in a comprehensive way, additional tools may be utilized to achieve this. Adoption of a unified development code may facilitate growth and development by providing citizens and developers with a better, more organized understanding of the procedure of approval for construction and limitations within a certain zone. Many cities and counties throughout the Atlanta region have adopted such codes. Some examples include Alpharetta, Powder Springs, Douglas County and Rome. Development Regulations (Signage) and Current Sign Ordinance: Conflicts Two documents, the City of Griffin Sign Ordinance and the Development Regulations regarding signage, currently govern sign types, placement and permitting throughout the City of Griffin. There exists within these documents conflicting language that should be resolved. Since the Development Regulations have been most recently adopted, standards presented there should stand when in conflict with regulations presented in the current sign ordinance. The design guidelines now included in the Development 6

8 Regulations were produced as a result of intensive community involvement centered around preserving and improving the unique architectural heritage and character of both the historic downtown area and the City s commercial corridors. SIGNAGE, IN GENERAL There is confusing, and sometimes conflicting, language between the existing sign ordinance, section (Downtown commercial district) and the Historic Downtown Area section of the Development Regulations; and section (Emerging corridors) and the Commercial Corridors section of the Development Regulations. The existing sign ordinance should be kept intact, making changes to it where necessary to eliminate confusion. In addition, both signage sections from the Development Regulations ( Historic Downtown Area and Commercial Corridors ) should be deleted, so as to eliminate duplication of language and regulations. SECTION 70-33, DOWNTOWN COMMERCIAL HISTORIC DISTRICT The freestanding signs portion of the sign ordinance allows signs with square footage up to 75 square feet (100 sq. ft. for commercial centers). 4 The Development Regulations allow historic pole signs of up to 16 square feet in area. 5 It is unclear whether freestanding signs are only historic pole signs or traditional shopping center signs as well. Sign heights currently allowed under the ordinance are up to 22 feet, the Development Regulations permit heights of up to ten feet. Distinction should be made between freestanding signs and historic pole signs so as to eliminate confusion. Freestanding signs as defined in the sign ordinance are not allowed under the Development Regulations for the historic downtown area. If the two are considered to be the same, the regulations set forth in the Development Regulations should be incorporated into the sign ordinance and the current regulations of freestanding signs removed. Historic pole signs are more in keeping with the downtown area s historic nature. 4 City of Griffin Sign Ordinance, Section b.1. 5 LCI Area Design Guidelines, Produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, 26. 7

9 Freestanding sign Historic pole sign Projecting signs under the current ordinance are allowed to project up to 18 inches from the face of the building and allow a sign size of up to 16 square feet. The Development Regulations allow a three foot projection but make no regulations as to sign size. The current ordinance should be amended to allow projecting signs a three foot length, but the 16 square foot size limit should remain. Department of Community Affairs guidelines suggest signs of no more than six square feet, but no language is currently adopted reflecting this recommendation. 6 The current ordinance allows projecting signs to hang at a height where the bottom of the sign is no lower than 80 inches above the sidewalk. The Development Regulations allow signs to hang no lower than eight feet (96 inches). The ordinance should be amended per the Development Regulations. DCA Guidelines suggest signs hang no lower than seven feet (84 inches) above the sidewalk. The current sign ordinance does not include some sign types discussed in the Development Regulations chalkboard signs, menu boxes, historic preservation plaques and relief signs. 6 Designing Downtown, Produced by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, 17. 8

10 Language discussing these sign types should be taken from the Development Regulations and incorporated into the sign ordinance. 9

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