A Detached Sign for Mercy Care McAuley Park at the Center of a Contested Ordinance Interpretation

The applicant believed the denial was due to the miscommunication in the understanding and nature of the site improvements.
Source: Official

Last month, an application to appeal a decision of an administrative officer was submitted to the City of Atlanta by Jennifer Wolfe of Its Permittable, LLC. on behalf of Mercy Care McAuley Park in an effort to challenge a decision and the interpretation of the City’s sign ordinance and its applicability to a recent development.

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The Atlanta Board of Zoning Adjustment will review the request to appeal the administrative decision on February 10, 2022. The ordinance under consideration and interpretation is located in subsection (6) C-2a (commercial service district) and includes:

“No freestanding signs shall be permitted for new developments. One freestanding sign per property shall be permitted for pre-existing principal structures setback a minimum of forty feet from the property line with street frontage. Said freestanding sign shall not be located in the sidewalk street furniture zone or clear zone and shall not exceed forty-eight square feet in sign area and a height of 15 feet.”

According to the summary of events provided by the applicant, the development site obtained a new zoning designation of MRC-3C in 2019 so that the property could be developed into a reconstructed mixed development containing existing office buildings, but the approval came with a condition requiring the addition of a new pedestrian access from the street to the existing building located on the corner of William Holmes Borders Sr. Drive and Decatur Street. The condition further stated that the access should connect pedestrians to the primary lobby entry and provided two options to accommodate the access, including the use of a staircase at the corner, in combination with an ADA ramp farther up the sidewalk or by providing a second primary lobby entry point along Decatur Street, near the existing primary entrance.

To accommodate the condition, the applicant argued that the existing brick ground sign would need to be removed and relocated to another location on the property but at the risk of losing structural integrity resulting in the need to construct a new freestanding sign. However, the new zoning designation does not allow for the construction of a new freestanding sign.

Believing that the development was not new, but the remodeling of existing buildings, the applicant submitted a permit on April 16th, 2021, for a new freestanding sign to replace the existing sign and to locate the sign in the location where the existing brick one would have been located if that had been a possibility. However, the City of Atlanta denied the freestanding sign permit on June 14th, 2021, on the basis that the development was considered new and not a remodeling project.

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Source: Official
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Dr. Anita Archambeau

Anita Archambeau, DPA AICP, is a freelance writer, adjunct professor, and consulting urban planner. She has over 25 years of community and economic development experience in local government. When she’s not working, you can find her exploring local craft breweries, walking her two beagles, or traveling to visit her adult children living in New York City and Minneapolis.
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