(Editor's note: The writer of this article is a resident of the 335 West Ponce condo building.)
The Decatur Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday rejected all complaints filed by people living near the site of the 315 West Ponce mixed-use development.
Unless residents take the next step and file a lawsuit, the decision clears the way for the developer, Carter, to build 235 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a seven-story parking garage in the asphalt parking lot behind the office tower at West Ponce and Ponce de Leon Place.
During the five-hour meeting, residents said city Planning Director Amanda Thompson didn't give proper notice for public meetings, failed to make information about the project public and didn't consistently apply city rules to developers. (All the residents' complaints are detailed in a PDF attached to a Patch story that ran last month.)
"The city has not demonstrated good faith, has not given us honest answers," Charles Scholle said.
"There is an atmosphere of distrust," resident Mary Fisher said.
City Attorney Bryan Downs responded that residents were concentrating on "technical deficiencies."
"The standard is substantial compliance," he said, adding that the city more than met the minimum requirements for public participation.
Some of the problems seemed to come down to interpretation and legal definitions.
For instance, the residents complained Thompson should have provided two weeks notice of a Feb. 26 meeting on the project but only invited them 11 days in advance. Even then, the information was not directly delivered to all residents of adjacent property, they said.
Thompson said two weeks public notice weren't required because the meeting was informational and wouldn't have resulted in a substantive change, like a zoning hearing would have. Thompson said she made sure the information got to neighborhood leaders, who agreed to circulate the information.
Residents also said they had a difficult time getting to see the developer's plans for the project. Were the plans actually made public?
Thompson said the plans were available on request if not distributed to all parties concerned. "To me, 'made public' means they're at city hall," she said.
The board voted on the complaints one by one. One the first point, about public notice, Board Chairman Neil Dobbs said, "I don't think she made a judgment error."
That attitude summed up the board's decision on other points, though some of the votes were 3-2, with board members Anthony Lewis and Erik Pawlowski voting in the minority.
The meeting lasted five hours and ended about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, with four hours devoted to the 315 West Ponce project.
Check back with Patch for more details about this meeting.
Other Patch stories about the 315 West Ponce project.
- $40 million mixed-use project planned for Decatur.
- Homeowners worry about impact of big apartment project.
- Letter to Editor: The parking garage would be way too big.
- Decatur Development Authority approves 315 West Ponce project.
- Residents file appeal against mixed-use project.
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this article had the wrong last name for city Planning Director Amanda Thompson.)