The requests, with additional conditions, were approved for a Sprint store that will be on an outparcel of the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta and the new Watermarke Church, which will move from its rented space at Cherokee Charter Academy to a more than 32-acre campus east of Ridge Trail and south of Ridgewalk Parkway.
David Shanahan with Dimension Development Partners LLC was present to discuss the variance request for the future Sprint store from its present zoning as Light Industrial with Technology Park Overlay District.
The variances approved by the Woodstock Planning Commission at its Dec. 6 meeting increase the maximum “build-to” line of 18 feet to allow between 40 to 50 feet from the back edge of the sidewalk; reduce the minimum requirement of 50 percent clear glazing—or window installations—facing public streets to provide a minimum of 30 percent of the side façade as clear glazing; eliminated the requirement to have one functional entry facing both the Ridgwalk Parkway and future Woodstock Parkway frontages; require the dumpster to be located out of the view of the public rather than behind the building and relief from a requirement that all buildings be built to cover a minimum of 60 percent of the frontage along the entire width of the parcel.
Shanahan said to meet the “build-to” line requirement, the applicant would have needed to install 18- to 20-foot retaining walls due to the topography of the land.
“We’re working with a site that is somewhat less than 70 percent usable,” Shanahan said.
He said the lot has two frontages to public roads with no viable vehicular or pedestrian access and constructing the building to code would result in non-functional elements that would not be in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.
Upon Council member Randy Brewer’s request, the council in its motion also approved a condition that all mechanicals and utilities will be screened from view from all public roadways using landscaping and/or architectural features approved by city staff.
Shanahan said the condition was acceptable and will work with city staff to find the best way to screen the dumpster.
Additionally, the slated Watermarke Church was unanimously granted a conditional use permit and zoning variances required to build its new campus under the council’s newly-adopted form-based code.
During its Sept. 24 meeting, the council in a 4-3 vote approved the addition of form-based code into the city’s zoning ordinances. In a diversion from traditional zoning, form-based code does not separate land based on use but rather addresses appropriate form and scale of development in relation to public spaces.
The property, zoned New Community Town Center, required the conditional use permit to allow religious assembly.
North Point Ministries Inc. of Alpharetta, the applicant for both requests, was represented Monday by attorney Parks Huff.
The land was under contract prior to the council’s adoption of form-based code, also known as smart code, Huff said.
“When the smart code started coming forward, we had our engineers and architects sit down with (city) staff to work with a proposal that would fit with the smart code,” Huff said. “We decided we would like to embrace it and come up with a site plan that respected the smart code.”
The first major change in the church’s blueprints was adding a two-story parking deck rather than having all surface parking. Other changes included creating a condensed, central building campus alongside Ridgewalk Parkway and redesigning the Ridge Trail entrance to allow for future development, Huff said.
“We submitted this to the (Atlanta Regional Commission) even before the adoption of smart code for review,” Huff said. “They reviewed it for traffic impact and other impacts related to the Development of Regional Impact and they recommended approval.”
DRI reviews are required by the ARC for developments that will likely have a large-scale impact beyond the local government jurisdiction in which they are located.
The variances, unanimously granted by council, related to the four buildings on the church campus that will be connected by covered glass hallways that will give them an outdoor appearance. This will keep children and families safer rather than having the halls open to the elements as per the zoning ordinance, Huff said.
Another variance was the request for 30 bicycle spaces rather than the approximately 220 that would have been required under the zoning ordinance.
City Attorney Eldon Basham said a condition of zoning with Wood Partners, prior owner of the land, required the owner to pay for the widening of Ridgewalk Parkway from Ridge Trail to Main Street, which Huff agreed to.
Basham also notified Huff of the challenge to the implementation of form-based code by Ridgewalk Holdings LLC, who owns a majority of the land subject to the zoning laws. The lawsuit was filed by attorney Roy Barnes, former Georgia governor, on behalf of Ridgewalk Holdings.
“We do not believe it has any merit but we want to make you aware you are proceeding at your own risk,” Basham said.
Huff said in his opinion, smart code is “fully enforceable” at this time.
Watermarke Church, an Andy Stanley ministry, will agree to the use of their parking deck for city events, Huff said.
“It’s certainly good for us to do things like that and it also benefits the church,” Huff said. “We want people to be familiar with our campus and familiar with our church so it’s in our interest to work with the city.”
Huff said the church, which has several affiliated churches in the metro Atlanta area, will generally only hold service on Mondays and won’t have church school during the week, except for Friday and Saturday night events a couple of times a month.
Huff said following a public participation meeting with the bordering Whitfield subdivision residents, planners agreed to add a 50-foot buffer to the southern part of the property as a required condition from the planning commission.
Jayne Hagan, a Whitfield resident, said she is pleased with the redesign of Watermarke Church.
“I think it’s important that we do things that make it look more presentable to not only the neighbor folks behind places like that, but also the frontage to what’s going to be the four-lane road eventually at Ridgewalk Parkway,” Hagan said.
Hagan also thanked all parties involved for creating the 50-foot buffer between Watermarke and her neighborhood.
“We’re happy that it’s a church and not something else,” Hagan said of her neighbors, who initially worried an apartment complex would go on the property.
In other business, the council unanimously approved the appointment of City Manager Jeff Moon to Cherokee County Development Authority. In 2006, former Economic Development Director Billy Peppers was appointed to serve on this board in lieu of Mayor Donnie Henriques. With Peppers leaving his position for the state’s Department of Community Affairs, Moon will now fill his role.
Moon reported that he has received 51 applications for community development director, the position Richard McLeod vacated after 10 years for the same position with the city of Alpharetta. Moon said he, alongside council member Bud Leonard, will conduct 11 interviews this week.
Moon said he has not yet listed Pepper’s position and intends to wait until January due to the holiday season.
Mayor and council also heard an update from Kyle Bennett, assistant tourism director and visitors center operations, regarding the inaugural weekend for the new downtown Woodstock trolley, which is being leased from the county.
Bennett said almost 500 people rode the trolley this past weekend and the city may look at a long-term lease agreement to run the trolley between the downtown area and the slated Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta.