By TY TAGAMI
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/14/07
DeKalb County commissioners have extended to 90 days a ban on construction applications to wedge several houses into lots that currently hold only one.
Commissioners voted last month for a 30-day ban. On Tuesday, they extended the moratorium until November.
Commissioner Jeff Rader, who asked for the extension, said it would give the county time to consider zoning changes that would prohibit owners from dividing their property into lots that are smaller than current zoning allows.
“We will be further reviewing this and considering it,” Rader said. The ban initially was established to halt re-development in Druid Hills, which Rader represents, and in Scottdale.
But the ban may affect more of the county than originally indicated.
On Tuesday, a man who is trying to sell his house in unincorporated East Atlanta said the buyer, a developer, backed away after the moratorium was first imposed last month.
Bill Allen, 39, told commissioners that the developer wanted to convert his 100-foot wide lot into two 50-foot lots. He said his employer, an ad agency, was transferring him to Tampa, and he’s already made an offer on a house there.
“It puts me in a very awkward position,” Allen said in a later interview. He said he stands to lose his $5,000 deposit if he decides he can’t carry both mortgages and cancels the purchase in Florida. “I can maybe float both, but it’s scary,” he said.
The moratorium arose over concerns about the increase of infill housing in DeKalb. Developers want to tear down decades-old houses on large lots and replace them with multiple houses on each lot. They can get around current minimum lot size limits because older homes straddle multiple smaller parcels that pre-date contemporary zoning.
The moratorium affects such “contiguous nonconforming lots of record” when they are owned by one person or a family. The measure applies to applications for certificates of appropriateness for demolition or new construction, and permits for land disturbance and building. It does not prohibit permit applications for the repair, renovation or remodeling of existing structures.
County officials cannot say how much of DeKalb is covered by the old, smaller plats. That is determined on a case-by-case basis as land owners apply for permits, said DeKalb planning director Patrick Ejike.
But Ejike said Bill Allen’s dilemma probably isn’t unique.
“I bet you there are some other folks in his shoes who did not come here,” Ejike said. Allen’s situation was “unfortunate,” Ejike said. “I feel for him, but I’m not sure how that can be resolved.”