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Buckhead neighborhood, church at odds over youth center
by Caroline Young
April 03, 2013 04:38 PM | 2909 views | 11 11 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A disagreement between Peachtree Road Methodist Church and residents of the Buckhead Forest neighborhood about a new youth center is still unresolved.

“One of the important growing edges of our church is to continue to find ways to reach out to adolescent students and help them with their lives,” said the church’s senior pastor, Bill Britt.

He said some numbers were wrong regarding the neighborhood’s concerns about the center, which were voiced at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods monthly meeting March 14.

At the meeting, Buckhead Forest representative Amy Hilman said the church wants to build a 60,000-square-foot youth center, which she said would be four stories high and 20 feet from the closest residential home.

However, Britt said the center would be 35 feet from the closest property line.

“It’s a two-story facility with a basement and it is 49,000 square feet,” he said.

Britt said he wanted to stress the fact that the youth center would not be a gym, especially because the church already has one.

He said the space will be used for Boy Scouts, mid-high students and senior high students, to take “basic Christian discipleship” classes.

Regarding the neighbors’ concerns, Britt said the church sat down with them to show the preliminary plan in November 2011.

“We showed them a two-story facility on one of our parking lots,” he said.

He said both residents and church members expressed concern about where cars would go with the loss of a lot.

“We took both feedbacks to our architects and asked if there was any way to locate it on another place on campus without impacting the campus,” Britt said.

He was told the church must buy a piece of property, which Britt said was already “interior” to the church, meaning it already owned property on either side of it. The church has since bought that land.

“We designed a building in such a way that it would be in the interior in our lot … and do our best to landscape and hide it from the neighborhood. So, traffic flow is the same,” he said. “We shared that with the neighbors in December and got positive feedback, [which] led to a letter of agreement on Jan. 4. … It was conditional on us meeting some particular conditions.”

He said the church was working on the conditions when it was informed in mid-February the neighbors no longer supported the building being built in an R-4 (single-family residential) zone.

Hilman also said at the meeting there is water damage from unfiltered water coming from one of the church’s water pipes.

“They have an open pipe where they funnel water into people’s back yards and they are expecting to connect the development up to that pipe and keep on going,” she said.

But Britt said the pipe is not on the church’s property, and the issue of hydrology is one condition of the agreement with the neighborhood.

“We are working on hydrology for the whole campus. … There is a sewer line that runs through our property, deep into the neighborhood. At some point, apparently, it opens up,” he said. “And so the concern is are we willing to do something for that?”

He said the church wants to use its leverage to help get the city’s attention to do something about it, and to work with the neighborhood to fix the problem.

The neighbors recently applied for Buckhead Forest to be put on the National Register by the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Historic Preservation Division, which would protect it from outside development.

In a March 18 letter to Jack Whitaker of the Buckhead Forest Civic Association, Amanda Schraner, historic resources section chief, wrote, it “believe[s] that the district meets the criteria for listing in the Nation Register and has been documented to National Register Standards.”

However, the National Register Review Board has to first hear the nomination, which will not be presented until 2014.

And Britt said the church has to receive a special use permit from the city first, and then he hopes to start the one-year build this summer to open in fall 2014. “We would like to work with our neighbors so we are in agreement. We want to go before the zoning board together,” he said. “We’d like to fulfill all conditions we were asked to fulfill and go back to the original agreement.”

Britt said his hope is the neighbors will give their blessing to it being built where they intend it to be. “We have this property and we want to build, still with greenspace behind it and landscaping behind it,” he said. “We have no interest in tearing down and encroaching into the neighborhood.”
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Betty Buckhead
May 13, 2013
Can someone please tell me where this stands? Is PRUMC still planning on demolishing two residential homes in Buckhead Forest to build their atrocious youth center right in a residential neighborhood because they're too cheap to build it up in their existing footprint and meet existing zoning guidelines? What has happened to city planning?!

Follow up reporting? Betty needs to know.
Mama needs to know
April 11, 2013
He can be construed but can't be if you look at it from a few points of view. I don't if I can't help it. The editor needs to tell everyone where they can find the old article cause it looks like he goes to that well too many times. When is the next meeting on this? We need more zoning notice on this church stuff. It is not like that Trader Joe. They don't sell that cheese! Can they editor get that in too????? Inquiring mind wants to know... The community needs this.
Katy Bryant
April 03, 2013
This article is filled with numerous inaccuracies and untruths. I attended the BCN meeting and listened to the presentation. Ms. Hillman did not say 60,000 SF building, nor did she say 4 story. I would suggest balanced reporting having both points of view represented.

First and foremost, as stated on PRUMC sketches presented to Buckhead Forest, the building is 3 stories and 50,000 SF with floors of glass intruding on the privacy/security of multiple homes. PRUMC would not commit to any of the neighborhoods requirements (full campus site plan, traffic study, lighting mitigation, hydrology correction, mature landscaping, sidewalks/traffic calming etc.) thus there are NO AGREEMENTS as Buckhead Forest resended any requests due to moving the proposed building into the heart of the neighborhood by purchasing another R4 lot closing 12/11/2012. PRUMC stated "NO, NO, NO to all requests and NO to their responsibility for corrective action to the damage being done due to acres of impervious surface and paving over the last decade.

Additionally, there was NEVER an agreement to demolish homes and build in R4 single family zoning. Buckhead Forest has a letter from Pastor Britt stating PRUMC will not build in R4 nor demolish homes.

Stay tuned to future press on this proposed maneuver to circumvent the SPI-9 development regulations by jumping the line back into R4 single family zoning to assemble land mass and continue encroaching into one of Atlanta's historic neighborhoods. Every neighborhood in Atlanta will be impacted on precedent.

The pending legislation for National Register states this neighborhood has been accepted and meets criteria based on all documentation meeting the standards of National Historic Register. There is now federal oversight and protection.

NOTE: PRUMC has not provided a master campus plan, no site plan, no traffic study, no hydrology corrective action plan, no landscaping plan, no light mitigation plan, etc. to show the residents of the area. 100% of the homeowners adjacent to PRUMC property in question, have signed a petition in oppostion.
seeking press
April 04, 2013
What future press? Are you all just concerned about getting press?
April 04, 2013
Hi Katy, thanks for your response. This article was actually written to give the church a chance to give their side. The first article I wrote was from the BCN meeting. (I have everything recorded) If you look in our archives, you will find it. I was also at the BCN meeting and reported exactly what was said, and what I heard. The two articles together are fair, giving each side a chance to voice their thoughts and their "facts." Thanks. Caroline
Katy's Right
April 04, 2013
@ seeking press

The point Ms. Bryant was making is that the article contains many inaccuracies that will need to be addressed in future articles. The author has already conceded and corrected one serious inaccuracy - the building proposed is 50,000 sq ft, NOT 4900 sq feet as originally published in the article. There are many other errors remaining though, in fairness, some can be attributed to the continuing misrepresentations by PRUMC and Mr. Britt. Get your facts strait before attacking others. Or maybe you are a member of PRUMC so inaccuracies and false attacks are your MO...
Caroline Young
April 05, 2013
I am simply reporting each side's voice, and the only inaccuracy, which was mine and my editor's mistake, was the square footage. Obviously, we have corrected it. My religious affiliations are never represented through news articles. Keep the comments coming!
Katy Bryant
April 07, 2013
- If there was an earlier article which presented the (other side)Buckhead Forest position, then that article should have been referenced in the current one and a link to the archives should have been included. If the earlier article is now out-of-date, then the reporter should have offered to update it. Other news organizations follow this protocol in print, on and offline.

Katy Bryant
April 07, 2013
Hi Caroline! In last comment I intended to also thank you and NN staff for our weekly updates. This paper offers the readership additional insight to local level 'neighbor' news of the immediate surrounding area. Thanks,Katy
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