Smith & Wood vs The Facts

My opponent specifically refers to Mayor Wood’s comments about the UDC at the Roswell Women’s Club Forum on October 22, 2013, saying he supports those comments.

Mayor Wood’s exact words are below, with a more correct explanation along side them.  As has been his practice, Mayor Wood cleverly uses a lawyers approach to carefully parse words and only use items that do not address the real issue or provide the real facts.  My opponent supports that?

My opponent says “So is Igleheart saying the Mayor doesn't know what he is talking about?  Who do you believe?”  Clearly, my opponent believes the Mayor.  Read the details below and I’ll ask the same question - Who do you believe?

A video runs on RCTV but is not yet available on the City website.  You can view a YouTube video (time of video comments included below) by clicking here.

Mr. Smith and Mayor Wood have a few more things in common.  Learn more here.

Mayor Wood:

(3:05) “There have been a lot of changes to the Unified Development Code but I think we’re at the point of those fears are based upon information that is not something to really fear. 

First I want to talk about the fear of increased density.  There was a Citizen’s Committee that worked on this zoning code for two years before it came for a review by the Council.  They had looked at increasing the density and putting commercial development at the 400/Holcomb Bridge Road interchange, which would have created a significant change in density.

When this came to the Council, the Council said this takes further review and decided not to make that change. 

So the biggest fear of increased density, there at the Holcomb Bridge/400 interchange is not taking place.  The Council said we’ll leave it zoned for apartments and save that for further discussion.

That is something that was a recent vote so I’m sure a lot of the critics were not aware of that vote.”

Mayor Wood completely ignores that fact that 14 new zoning categories in the UDC allow for substantially higher densities than Roswell allows today.  He also doesn’t acknowledge the fact that Council has now had 3-4 meetings where these categories have been discussed, yet no substantial changes have been made to those increased density aspects.

Mayor Wood blames a Citizen’s Committee on proposed increases in density.  This committee only gave input to the UDC drafted by a consultant and City staff.  The document, including substantial increases in density, was not created by this committee, and in fact, many of this groups recommendations to remove substantial density increases while carefully managing some increases in density in were ignored.

Mr. Smith was on this Citizen’s Committee.  Does he accept the Mayor’s blame for proposing density increases?  Mr. Smith missed almost all the meetings though, so perhaps he didn’t take the chance to have real input?

Mayor Wood only addresses the corners of GA400/Holcomb Bridge in his comments regarding higher densities.  There has actually not been a vote as he describes.  All of the Council decisions about changes to the draft UDC have been comments that are sometimes accepted, sometimes not.  I was present for that particular discussion and I was aware of that suggested change - the criticism still stands.

Mayor Wood:

(4:17)  “The next fear was the fear of more apartments.  What they don’t understand is how this Unified Development Code works.  There are no properties zoned for apartments under the Unified Development Code that are not currently zoned for apartments.

There is a conditional zoning process that if a developer wishes to develop for apartments he can file an application with the City, he can appear before the neighborhoods, he can go in front of the Planning Commission, have a public hearing, go in front of the Council and have a public hearing and then if he get’s a majority of the votes, and only then, would more apartments be allowed.

And that is the same process as rezoning.  So this Unified Development Code is not approving any more apartments.  It’s simply saying that in some of our old strip centers where we want to see mixed-use development, we want to give that as an option to bring apartments into a mixed-use development to redevelop some of these old shopping centers.”

In reality, there are actually numerous areas where the new zoning category given with the UDC does allow new apartments.   Anywhere on the new UDC map zoned RM-2, RM-3, RX, CX, SH, CC, CH, DR, DX, DS, OR or IX would allow apartments (with conditional approval).

Most of these do not currently have apartments on them.

The only properties where apartments are allowed today are those zoned R-4 or that are within the new Groveway Overlay (with Council approval).

However, no rezonings are currently allowed into the R-4 category.  The code says “This district is not suitable for new developments in Roswell since it would permit residential development at a density exceeding the recommendations of they city’s comprehensive plan. Therefore, no rezoning to the R-4 district is permitted” (Roswell Zoning Ordinance, Section 5.9.1). 

Existing apartments currently have a maximum density of 14 units per acre.  The new zoning categories for those specific parcels will remove density as a consideration for any rezoning request.

Apartments in the UDC may be used as an option for redevelopment of old shopping centers, but the UDC does allow apartments in many more places where they currently are not allowed.

The Mayor is correct in stating new apartments or increases to density of existing apartments would have to go through a conditional zoning process.  He is also correct in stating it would only take a majority of votes to allow apartments.  That could be as few as three Councilmembers as the Mayor would break a 3-3 tie.

The current City Council has already approved the first new apartment rezoning request that was submitted through the new Groveway Overlay.  A request for 30 units per acre - double the maximum that exists today.

This does open the door for the possibility of new apartments, which does not exist today.  One vote would allow that possibility to become a reality.

Mayor Wood:

(5:12) “The last fear was really the zoning approval process.  People are saying we’re going to be taking away from the public hearings and the right to be heard.  That is not true.

Again, I simply think they don’t understand the Unified Development Code.  The zoning approval process is not going to change.  Again, you are going to have to file for a permit, you are going to have to go before a neighborhood meeting to discuss it, you’re going to have to go before the Planning Commission to discuss it, you’re going to have a public hearing before the Council and you’re still going to have a majority vote before there is any rezoning or any change in the conditional zoning.

So as far as the process, it is the same process we have right now.”

There are numerous examples, at least hundreds of properties, where there will not be a specific public hearing for a property that will change from it’s current zoning to new allowances under the UDC.  In many of these cases the changes will be substantially more than if they did go through a rezoning process today as many of these things are not allowed or are much smaller or larger under the current code.

Most of the Historic District is changing under the UDC to allow many more uses, smaller setbacks, taller buildings (generally now 2 1/2 stories changing to 4 stories with possible 2 additional) and larger lot coverage (generally now 35% changing to 70-80%).  There will be no specific hearing about individual properties where these allowances will change.  Even if they are in your back yard.

Any property currently zoned R-TH that becomes the new R-TH under the UDC will suddenly have smaller unit sizes and set-backs, and much higher densities allowed.  There will be no specific hearing about individual properties where these allowances change - even if they are in your back yard.

Any property that becomes RS-9, RS-6, RM-2, RM-3, RX, NX, CX, SH, CC, PV, CH, DR, DX, DS, OR or IX when the UDC passes would have numerous new uses, smaller lot sizes and setbacks, larger densities and lot coverages.  There will be no specific hearing about individual properties where these allowances change - even if they are in your back yard.

The Mayor has said in other venues that these will receive a public hearing because the entire UDC will have two public hearings for approval.  Technically, that is true, but it is not the per-property, individual zoning hearing process that exists today.

Kent Igleheart Roswell City Council