Atlanta’s planning department outlines initiatives in new report

A new report by Atlanta’s planning department promises the city will monitor the city’s tree canopy and update the tree ordinance, address blight and promote affordable housing, and make sure the planned bike share program starts this year.
The annual updates issued by Atlanta’s Department of Planning and Community Development typically are feel-good reports. This one maintains the tradition.
The report covers a one-year period ending June 30, 2014. Although it has just been released, the report and related materials make no mention that the department has operated without a commissioner since early September 2014.
Former Planning Commissioner James Shelby departed with little fanfare. Shelby’s replacement, Charleston, S.C. Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, is slated to start work in Atlanta on July 1.
Deputy Commissioner Terri Lee wrote the department’s cover letter to the report. Lee joined the department as housing director in 2004 and was named deputy commissioner in 2008.
Lee’s remarks remind of the lingering impact of the Great Recession:
• “As the nation and city of Atlanta emerge from the Great Recession, we remain committed to employing best practices in housing, building and planning to stay the course for success … As we emerge stronger than ever from past challenges, this report documents our present accomplishments, outlines targeted goals, and gives you a glimpse of our objectives for the forthcoming fiscal year.”
The objectives are for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. However, projects including the bike share program are now expected to launch by the end of the calendar year. Some will carry forward into the fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2016.
Regardless of when the initiatives may be implemented, they illustrate the areas where the city intends to exert its influence. Here are the top initiatives as identified by the three offices within the planning department:
Office of Buildings
• “Conduct new city tree canopy study to compare to the baseline and access actual percentage of tree cover.
• “Continue stabilizing the permitting process and identifying additional systems enhancements for implementation and efficiencies.
• “Update the tree ordinance based on the recommendations from the Wallace Roberts & Todd report.”
Office of Housing
• “Use a new $2.5M grant to expand Lead Safe Atlanta, a housing program designed to protect women and children from harmful lead based paint poisoning.
• “Manage city’s first scattered site affordable housing initiative in Mechanicsville known as ‘Vacant 2 Vibrant.’
• “Address blight via Judicial In Rem Blight Removal program in an effort to eradicate vacant and abandoned properties
• “Create new affordable housing units for senior citizens by completing City Lights, a new construction development.”
Office of Planning
• “Implement the bicycle element of the Connect Atlanta Program by securing funding for planning, design and construction of bicycle facilities and a citywide bicycle sharing system.
• “Obtain federal and state funding for smart growth and transportation projects to stimulate the city’s economic growth.
• “Ensure that all Neighborhood Planning Units have pertinent information included in their individual by-laws to allow for consistency and efficient operations.
• “Initiate phase 1 of the zoning ordinance rewrite, and complete the assessment and best practices recommendation.”