Archive for August, 2011

Brookings Looks at the Uneven Aging and “Younging” of America

August 31, 2011

The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program released a report in June on aging trends identified in the 2010 Census, authored by William H. Frey. In the piece, Frey discusses the ways in which different age cohorts of the American population have grown, shrunk, concentrated and de-concentrated since 1990 (with particular emphasis on the decade from 2000-2010) across our nation’s state and metropolitan geographies.

One of Frey’s key takeaways is that the older population is growing rapidly in almost all parts of the country, while younger populations are growing more slowly and unevenly.

Some interesting findings that relate to the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta MSA in particular:

  • The Atlanta region’s Under-45 population grew by more then 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.
  • At the same time, our MSA’s Over-65 population grew by 44 percent (5th highest among metro areas) during the same period.
  • Despite this growth, the Atlanta region’s Over-65 population is still comparatively small as a percentage of total population (6th lowest among metro areas).
  • The region was also a fairly fast gainer of “pre-seniors” (age 55-64), although not in the top 10 in growth for this segment.

In any event, Frey’s article deserves a close read. In future posts, Land Matters will look at other demographic trends identified in Census 2010–and their implications–as they relate to the Atlanta region.

Cherokee County Unveils Online Interactive Permitted Use Table

August 31, 2011

In March, Cherokee County adopted a comprehensive Permitted Uses Table based on the Land Based Classification System (LBCS) from the American Planning Association and North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) from the U.S. Census Bureau.  For citizens, the Permitted Uses Table went from 4 pages to 20 pages and became more challenging to use to find information about particular uses or districts.

In a joint project between the county’s Information Technology and Planning departments meant to solve this problem, staff developed an online, interactive Permitted Uses Table that allows the user to search the table for specific LBCS and NAICS codes or key words. The user can also compare and filter information by zoning district.  With links to the online NAICS descriptions and the county’s own supplemental requirements, citizens are now able to easily identify the range of allowable uses in a district or find the district in which a desired land use would be permitted.

ARC Facilitates Spring and Summer Workshops in Atlanta and McDonough

August 31, 2011

The Atlanta Regional Commission facilitated two workshops over the spring and summer — one in the Edgewood/Candler Park MARTA Station area in Atlanta, and the other in downtown McDonough in Henry County.

Edgewood Charrette

Southface and the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) led a group of local non-profits, professionals and stakeholders to undertake the Edgewood design charrette in April 2011. This charrette spanned four days and focused on exploring and formulating a vision for a transit-oriented development (TOD) on the underutilized MARTA parking lot on the south side of the Edgewood/Candler Park MARTA station, in the Edgewood community of Atlanta. The Edgewood community was chosen as the focus area because of the considerable planning and implementation progress that the City of Atlanta, Zeist Foundation, MARTA and the Edgewood community have already undertaken.  The goals of the charrette included advancing the MARTA TOD Guidelines, advancing previous planning studies completed in the Edgewood area, and fostering coordination of activities among the essential TOD stakeholders in the region.

The final report and other charrette products are available on ARC’s TOD page.

McDonough Workshop

The City of McDonough completed their original Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) study for the McDonough Town Center in 2004. In 2011, the City applied for and was awarded an LCI supplemental study grant to further implementation of the original 2004 study. Through the supplemental study scope of work, the City sought to maximize its opportunity for mixed-use and quality infill development; to improve linkages and access to both active and passive recreational amenities within walking distance of the Town Square; improve street, sidewalk and path connectivity; and strengthen existing downtown businesses.

To accomplish this goal, the City requested LCI funding to hire a consultant to complete three projects: a business retention/recruitment analysis, a connectivity and mobility plan, and a mixed use overlay zoning ordinance. Additionally, as a part of its application, the City asked for ARC’s assistance in organizing and managing a four-day charrette/workshop to kick off the larger scope of work that a consultant would subsequently be hired to complete.

The ARC team was instructed to focus on several key issue areas during the charrette:

  • Lifelong Communities (LLC) Principles
  • Wayfinding signage and parking issues in the downtown area
  • Context-sensitive design and connectivity/mobility issues
  • Tourism, cultural events and the arts
  • Urban design guidelines

The McDonough workshop was held from June 13-16, 2011. The week kicked off with a public meeting held at the Hazlehurst House in downtown McDonough, and smaller technical meetings were held throughout the week.

The final report is available on ARC’s LCI Implementation page.

ARC Releases Breaking Ground LCI Transportation Program Mid-Year Update

August 31, 2011

Twice a year, ARC contacts each LCI area that has received implementation funds in an effort to keep up-to-date on the status of projects and to ensure that projects are moving forward in the process. ARC recently completed the July 2011 Mid-Year Update containing the most recently gathered information and summarizing progress for LCI-funded transportation projects through June 2011.

This information is also incorporated into a more expansive Breaking Ground Report, which is published once a year by ARC and details the implementation status of all projects (i.e., more than LCI projects alone) programmed to receive federal transportation funds in the most recently completed fiscal year. To view the most recent complete Breaking Ground Report, as well as previous reports and other relevant information, visit the ARC Transportation Improvement Program Project Delivery page.

Are We Ready for Smart Code?

August 31, 2011

By Dan Reuter, AICP, Land Use Division Chief, Atlanta Regional Commission

Since 1999, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the Regional Business Coalition (RBC) and Livable Communities Coalition (LCC) have undertaken evaluations of local development codes in the Atlanta region to determine implementation of “smart growth.”  Over the past decade, local governments have undertaken numerous activities to update and improve zoning and development codes.  ARC’s programs including the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), Lifelong Communities (LLC) and Community Choices programs have supported local governments to update their regulatory codes.  So where are we headed?

Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) have been used in Georgia to permit mixed-use development for possibly 40 years.  In the late 1990s to early 2000s, many local governments began updating their zoning codes to include PUD “hybrid” districts to allow Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) zoning or “parallel” codes that allowed property owners to use conventional or smart growth development standards.  Examples of this period include Cobb County’s Planned Community Development (PCD) zoning, which was used to build Ridenour in Kennesaw; the City of Atlanta’s Midtown SPI or Quality-of-Life districts; and later the Rockdale County Salem Road Overlay.

During this period, ARC hired David Walters of UNC-Charlotte to develop Community Choices toolkits and model ordinances related to TND and TOD (Transit-Oriented Development). David Walters was successful in assisting the smaller cities of Davidson and Huntersville, north of Charlotte, NC, with TND codes that were used to build developments including Vermillion and Birkdale Village.

Over the past five years, many local governments in Georgia, including many LCI communities, have adopted progressive zoning codes.  In metro Atlanta, ARC resources and funding were supportive of many of these new codes.  Noteworthy jurisdictions that have implemented design-based codes include Atlanta, Woodstock, Union City, Decatur, Suwannee, Cobb County and Cherokee County.

In 2010, Cobb County implemented a form-based code in Mableton following a Lifelong Communities design charrette.  The City of Woodstock, already recognized nationally as having a form-based code for its downtown, will soon take the next step.  Woodstock will become the first jurisdiction to implement a “Smart Code.”  The Smart Code has been supported in recent years by the Congress for the New Urbanism and a non-profit called the Center for Applied Transect Studies.

Many of ARC’s Developments of Excellence (DOE) winners during the past decade were located in jurisdictions that implemented TND or form-based zoning.  Examples can be found here.  Examples of design-based development projects have been undertaken in metro Atlanta by private developers including Hedgewood, Richport and Green Street.

Form-based codes including the Smart Code may not be appropriate to every area and jurisdiction in metro Atlanta, but many cities and parts of counties can benefit from a process involving design charrettes and the consideration of urban form.  During the Woodstock code update process, ARC will be monitoring and updating other local governments on Woodstock’s progress.

It is clear that many local governments in Georgia are national leaders in pushing the limits for progressive zoning codes, supporting innovative developments and building communities that provide new choices for current and future residents.

Additional Resources:

All LCI plans and supplemental codes are available online through a searchable database.

All ARC Lifelong Community plans are available online here.

A national survey of form-based codes was conducted by the design and coding firm PlaceMakers and can be found online here.

Private consultants have played a major role alongside local governments in adopting new zoning codes.  Examples of plans and codes developed by consultants can be found online from firms such as Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Assoc. (TSW), Urban Collage, and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. (DPZ).

LCI Implementation Report Now Available Online

August 31, 2011

ARC periodically conducts studies to monitor the successes, challenges and effectiveness of its Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), a program designed to enhance existing centers and corridors consistent with regional development policies. These reports examine the types of development taking place in LCI areas, as well as the ways in which policies and regulations are changing in LCI communities to support the goals of the program. They also assess the benefits and impacts that LCI plans, policies and resulting projects might have on the region as a whole.

LCI Implementation Reports, published biennially, represent one of these evaluation tools, allowing ARC to track developments and policies implemented in each LCI community to ensure sure the plan is achieving the goals it set out to achieve. Along these lines, ARC recently released its 2011 LCI Implementation Report, available for download along with an Executive Summary and past Implementation Reports on the LCI Evaluation page of ARC’s website. In preparing the report, staff gathered information through a survey and development inventory spreadsheet sent to all LCI communities. Building off of data collection methods from previous Implementation Reports, the survey and development inventory assisted staff in quantifying changes in development, measuring changes in land use policy and assessing attitudes towards improvements in livability resulting from LCI study implementation. Some of the report’s highlights include:

  • LCI areas are present in 13 counties in metro Atlanta. Although LCI areas make up less than 5 percent of the total land area of this 13-county region, they are responsible for more than 15 percent of the region’s development, on average. LCI communities have captured a considerable amount of new office development and commercial development, and an increasing amount of new residents.
  • As of March 2011, 92 transportation projects in 55 LCI communities had received LCI Transportation funding. Funded projects include sidewalks, crosswalks, multi-use trails, roadway operation improvements, bike lanes and transit facilities. The majority of funding has gone to pedestrian facility improvements: these projects have received more than $97 million to date.
  • Of the 90 LCI areas that responded to the policy portion of the LCI survey, 88 percent have incorporated their LCI study into their comprehensive plans; 64 percent have created special LCI zoning districts; 28 percent have policies or development incentives in place that focus on building more senior, workforce or special needs housing within and around the LCI study area; and 85 percent have policies in place controlling architectural standards or design guidelines.
  • In addition to being eligible for LCI Supplemental Study funds, LCI communities are also eligible to receive implementation assistance through ARC’s Community Choices program. As part of ARC’s Government Services division, Community Choices provides cities and counties with pro bono technical assistance and resources to implement quality growth policies and plans. Since the program began in 2005, it has provided assistance to 29 LCI communities to help them implement their existing LCI plans.
  • The Lifelong Communities (LLC) program, managed through ARC’s Aging Services Division, was launched in 2007 as a way to plan communities where individuals can live throughout their lifetime. In 2009, ARC hosted a nine-day Lifelong Communities Charrette which brought together experts to examine how Atlanta area communities could become places where people of all ages and abilities can live as long as they would like. Of the six sites examined during the charrette, five are LCI communities.

Local Planners Examining Airport Issues

August 31, 2011

In its planning and visioning efforts, ARC regularly engages citizens and stakeholders around the region toward the development of a long-range vision. One of the stronger recurring themes during discussions, forums and meetings in the last five to six years has been the need for our region to sharpen its focus on a truly vital asset: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (H-JAIA). The airport is currently first in passenger volume among global airports and number four nationally in terms of cargo. It is also home to 58,000 on-site jobs, and it enables approximately 400,000 jobs regionally. This is all despite a size (5,000 acres) that is small compared to many major metropolitan airports (e.g., Dallas-Fort Worth at 18,000 acres, Denver at 30,000 acres).

Acting on this information, ARC added an Airport Investment Area (AIA) to its PLAN 2040 Unified Growth Policy Map (UGPM) and Regional Development Guide, and airport area work items were included in ARC’s PLAN 2040 work program. As an initial step in this program, ARC Land Use Division staff held a series of informal discussions with local government staff in the airport area (Hapeville, College Park, East Point, Atlanta/ADA/Department of Aviation, and Clayton County) as well as other organizations, including Georgia Power and H-JAIA Planning staff, to listen to their issues, concerns and ideas. The goal of these discussions was to begin a dialogue on better coordination and potential strategies, and to consider how the region treats its “front door to the world.”

On July 28, ARC’s Land Use Coordinating Committee—made up of local planning staff from around the region—came together at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park to open this conversation up to a wider group of planners.

Jon Tuley of ARC began the meeting with a look at the H-JAIA’s past and the challenges it faces going forward, including barriers to growth, existing and potential land use conflicts, and infrastructure needs in and around the facility. Shelley Lamar, Community Development and Land Use Planning Manager at H-JAIA, provided an overview of the airport’s rise to prominence and a look at its biggest upcoming change in the opening of the Maynard Holbrook Jackson International Terminal (MHJIT) in April 2012. Accompanying the new terminal are myriad physical and operational changes, both “inside the fence” and beyond, such as the construction of a new access point from I-75 to the MHJIT; the updating of roughly 90 directional signs on surrounding roadways; and the introduction of shuttle service to move international travelers between the MHJIT on the east side of the property and the airport MARTA station and Rental Car Center on the west side.

Following Ms. Lamar’s presentation, Scott Condra, Senior Vice President for Development at the Jacoby Group, spoke about his company’s work on Aerotropolis Atlanta, a planned mixed-use development situated on the 130-acre site of the former Ford Motor Company Atlanta Assembly Plant in Hapeville, directly adjacent to the airport. Jacoby is developing the site to house a range of office, retail, hotel and other uses, hoping to capitalize on a concept popularized by UNC-Chapel Hill professor John Kasarda in his new book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. In the book, Kasarda chronicles the increasing importance of smart development around airports as a key to the stability, growth and competitiveness of metropolitan regions in the 21st century and beyond. This type of development includes firms engaged in international trade, logistics, supply chain management, e-commerce and time-sensitive functions requiring easy access to global markets – as well as on-site or nearby supportive uses like retail and residential. In May of this year, Porsche North America announced its plans to enlarge and relocate its headquarters to Aerotropolis Atlanta.

To close the meeting, Ms. Lamar led many attendees on an in-depth tour of the MHJIT site, offering a unique view of this large-scale development. Abra Lee, Landscape Manager for H-JAIA, guided other participants on a tour of the perimeter of the airport grounds to illustrate the vast amount and wide variety of landscapes for which her team provides planning and maintenance services.

This meeting is certain to prompt questions that ARC staff, LUCC members and other area planners will be discussing in the coming weeks and months. What has been done right or wrong in and around H-JAIA in the past? Are current development patterns and land uses compatible with or taking advantage of their proximity to the airport? Do jurisdictions around H-JAIA work together? How well does the region “greet” its visitors who come to the area by way of the airport? What do local governments and the area in general need in terms of resources or assistance to be more successful? Does ARC have a role in the area? What could be improved in the communities that surround H-JAIA? What airport areas around the nation could serve as a positive example for Atlanta to follow? How could planning and development around H-JAIA be better coordinated? For planners, these kinds of questions highlight the need to think critically about existing and future land uses, transportation networks, infrastructure needs and investment decisions both inside and outside the airport fence. As the significance of our airport continues to grow, the time to plan is now.

ARC Board Adopts PLAN 2040

August 31, 2011

July 27 marked the ARC Board’s adoption of PLAN 2040, a 30-year blueprint for sustainable regional growth. To put things in perspective, Land Matters takes a look back at past regional planning efforts and examines the components of PLAN 2040.


Prior to 1989, six plans had been prepared for the Atlanta Region, the first in 1952. Each plan was long-range and general in nature; expressed how the region should grow to achieve future goals; and allowed for local decision-making. Over the years, state legislation evolved, providing a framework for each of these planning efforts. In 1989, the Georgia Planning Act set the stage for our most current planning approach. The Act requires all local governments and regional commissions in the state, including ARC, to prepare comprehensive plans—conforming to standards prepared by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA)—using a “bottom-up” approach, with local plans coming first and regional plans following. This allows regional plans to combine, strengthen and interrelate local planning efforts. Local governments in the Atlanta region prepared their required plans between 1991 and 1995, and in 1997, ARC released a Regional Development Plan called Detailing the Vision – A Development Plan for the Atlanta Region. Adhering to the Georgia Planning Act, it incorporated the local government plans produced between 1991 and 1995. Detailing the Vision was updated in 1999 and identified special target areas for implementation. Examples of these areas included small water supply watersheds, airport noise zones and transit station areas, including those along proposed rapid transit rail extensions and commuter rail lines.

In 2003, ARC published Regional Development Plan Land Use Policies – Livability for People and Places, which refined the planning principles articulated in Detailing the Vision and its 1999 update. In 2006, ARC developed Envision 6, which conformed to the “bottom-up” approach introduced by the Georgia Planning Act and followed a plan development process to better support future updates of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Regional Development Plan (RDP). The format of Envision 6 included an RTP based on forecasts and policy recommendations from the RDP, thereby setting the stage for PLAN 2040, which more fully integrates the RTP and RDP into one unified policy framework.

A Sustainable Approach

During the first six months of 2010, ARC released the PLAN 2040 Regional Assessment, including specific Findings that were communicated to stakeholders as well as the ARC Board and its committees. Over 100 meetings with elected officials and stakeholders – both in-person and online – took place throughout 2010 and were used to review the Findings and frame the needs of the region.

The theme of “sustainability” was selected as an overarching concept for the development of PLAN 2040. The term was defined through meetings of ARC committees, and a Purpose, Values and Objectives for completing PLAN 2040 were adopted by the Atlanta Regional Commission in July 2010.

The PLAN 2040 Purpose Statement, visionary leadership for sustainable growth by balancing environmental responsibility, economic growth and social needs while maximizing benefits to all, was adopted by the ARC Board and supported by three Values:

  • Value #1: Lead as the Global Gateway to the South
  • Value #2: Encourage Healthy Communities
  • Value #3: Expand Access to Community Resources

PLAN 2040’s five Objectives serve to animate these Values and guide the region toward sustainability:

  • Increase mobility options for people and goods
  • Foster a healthy, educated, well trained, safe, and secure population
  • Promote places to live with easy access to jobs and services
  • Improve energy efficiency while preserving the region’s environment
  • Identify innovative approaches to economic recovery and long-term prosperity

These Objectives—rooted in the Purpose and Values—correlate to specific Findings from the Regional Assessment and provide an organizational framework for a series of PLAN 2040 Principles. The Objectives and Principles, in tandem, serve as ARC’s land use policy to guide the programs, decisions and investments espoused in PLAN 2040. Icons for each Objective carry through all PLAN 2040 documents to show how each component of the Plan embodies the overarching goals of the region.

The PLAN 2040 Regional Agenda

The Regional Agenda is the heart of PLAN 2040. Representing a path toward Plan implementation for local governments, ARC itself, and ARC’s regional partners, the Regional Agenda comprises four key documents:

The Regional Development Guide is a required component of the Regional Agenda and contains the Unified Growth Policy Map (UGPM), comprised of Areas and Places. Areas describe predominant land use patterns throughout the region, and Places reflect concentrated uses that have generally defined boundaries and provide greater detail within Areas. The Regional Development Guide itself elaborates on the UGPM by providing for each Area and Place a defining narrative and issue summary; development guidelines focused on land use, density and height; images representing recommended development types; and Implementation Priorities, which are measures to achieve the desired development patterns and thereby grow the region in a sustainable way. The Regional Development Guide also addresses implementation of DCA’s Quality Community Objectives (QCOs) for the Atlanta region.

The Local Government Plan Implementation document includes another required component of the Regional Agenda through its Performance Standards for Local Governments, which serve to encourage local government implementation of PLAN 2040 and the realization of regional goals. Organized around the five Objectives, the standards are divided into Minimum and Excellence thresholds. Local governments can achieve these thresholds through a wide variety of activities, providing for flexibility and choice across different jurisdictions with different local needs and conditions. Excellence Standards, in particular, represent a valuable way for local planners to implement innovative policies and programs in their communities.

The ARC Implementation Program document is a required component of the Regional Agenda that includes the Regional Sustainable Five-Year Work Program, as well as new regional needs and strategies to implement PLAN 2040. As one part of its work program and in furtherance of Plan Objectives, ARC will maintain its commitment to the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) program by continuing to fund new LCI studies and implementation activities in existing study areas. ARC staff will also explore the use of Public-Private Partnerships in LCI plan implementation and the establishment of performance measures for LCI communities. The ARC Implementation Program also contains a commitment to Lifelong Communities (LLC) principles through plans for LLC program expansion into additional communities and the development and promulgation of Lifelong Communities tools. These are only two parts of ARC’s extensive Implementation Program.

The Regional Implementation Partners document is a required component of the Regional Agenda that identifies activities to be undertaken by regional partners in support of the PLAN 2040 implementation. Activities of state agencies, quasi-governmental organizations, and non-profit groups are documented through a Five-Year Work Program similar to the ARC Implementation Program. This document demonstrates ARC’s position that collaboration among a wide spectrum of stakeholders is critical to PLAN 2040’s implementation.

PLAN 2040 Evaluation and Monitoring

As a component of PLAN 2040, ARC will monitor the effectiveness of Plan implementation. Methods of monitoring will include:

  • Periodic assessments of communities to measure their progress on meeting the Local Performance Standards
  • Communications that convey the key points of PLAN 2040 implementation through an innovative online dashboard, publications, the ARC website and presentations to governments and citizens
  • Surveys of regional leaders on ways in which the strategies identified in the Plan are being implemented
  • Annual reports on the accomplishments of PLAN 2040 work programs, including changes in development patterns

Based on the results of PLAN 2040 Evaluation and Monitoring, ARC may develop new programs and policies to remove barriers to implementation and produce measurable results.

ARC’s Regional Assessment Findings showed that the Atlanta region is well positioned for greater success, but only if local governments, businesses, and citizens are prepared for changes in the way they live and do business. The PLAN 2040 Regional Agenda brings together a wide range of plans, guidelines and incentives that will spur the changes needed to foster sustainable and healthy communities, and ensure that all citizens have the maximum access possible to advance their lives within the region’s capacity.

Atlanta Regional Roundtable Public Meetings To Be Held Across Region in September

August 30, 2011

The Atlanta Regional Roundtable will hold a round of public meetings on the Transportation Investment Act in the month of September across the 10-county metro Atlanta area.  See the schedule below for dates and click here for locations and other information.

  • Douglas County: Wednesday, Sept. 7, 5-7 PM
  • Henry County: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 6-8 PM
  • City of Atlanta: Thursday, Sept. 15, 6-8 PM
  • Cherokee County: Monday, Sept. 19, 6-8 PM
  • Cobb County: Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5-7 PM
  • Fayette County: Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6-8 PM
  • North Fulton County: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 6-8 PM
  • Gwinnett County: Monday, Sept. 26, 5-7 PM
  • Rockdale County: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6-8 PM
  • South Fulton County: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6-8 PM
  • DeKalb County: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6-8 PM
  • Clayton County: Thursday, Sept. 29, 6-8 PM

On August 15th, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable Executive Committee unanimously adopted a fiscally constrained project list for the 10-county area.  The list must now be approved by the full 21-member Roundtable by October 15th.  The next meeting of the full Roundtable will be held on Friday, September 16th.

To sign-up for Atlanta Roundtable e-mail alerts or for additional information, see

2011 LCI Transportation Funding Currently Available

August 23, 2011

This is a Land Matters reminder that ARC is currently accepting applications for LCI transportation funds.

Applications are due on September 23, 2011 by 5:00 PM.

Applicants must complete the application and submit their materials to ARC per the guidelines detailed on the form. The application should be completed by Sponsors for communities that have completed and approved an LCI study and are seeking funding for a project identified in their LCI Plan’s 5-Year Action Plan or Work Program. If selected, projects must complete a detailed Scoping Report prior to having funds committed and added to the TIP. This Scoping Phase typically takes 3 to 6 months but can be shorter or longer depending on the project.

Applications and additional information are available for download on the ARC LCI Transportation Program page.

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