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West Paces Ferry Road: Potential compromise could protect historic integrity

Portion of site plan for 660 West Paces Ferry Road. (Image via The Macallan Group via NPU-A)

By David Pendered

The historic integrity of Atlanta’s iconic West Paces Ferry Road could be better protected through a potential compromise outlined Tuesday between homeowners and a developer who plans to build eight houses.

The houses are to be built on the site of the estate known as Whispering Pines, located at 660 West Paces Ferry Road, which is at the southwest corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Drive. The Governor’s Mansion is located on the opposite side of West Paces Ferry Road, a half-mile to the east, toward Peachtree Road.

Plans call for the 1928 estate house to be demolished. Eight houses would be developed around a cul-de-sac that is to open onto West Paces Ferry Road, according to plans distributed at Tuesday evening’s meeting of NPU-A, one of the neighborhood planning units established by the city to provide residents a voice in Atlanta’s development.

The magnitude of the proposed development in the annals of Atlanta’s historic preservation efforts was described in written remarks presented by David Yoakley Mitchell, executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center.

“These homes are architecturally and historically significant. Their loss would be detrimental to our city…” Mitchell wrote. “Their preservation has been an important way for Atlanta to transmit our understanding of the past to future generations – the very ethos of this community is visually understood by them. I beseech you to be the steward of them now – as they have been our representative of accomplishment for almost a century.”

Residents oppose the proposed development and on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly against it. However, the existing zoning allows the development to proceed as planned.

The developer said Tuesday the proposal was the best available to the company under the residential zoning regulations that apply to the property. The company is willing to consider another zoning category that would provide benefits some neighbors seek. Benefits also accrue to the developer.

Mike Minutelli, founding principal of The Macallan Group, said the company is willing to consider developing the parcel under zoning classification different from residential, Planned Development – Housing District. Minutelli said the company is willing to consider the relocation of the house if funders step forward.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time, money and effort analyzing PD-H to see what happens,” Minutelli said. “But we’re not going to slow down on the subdivision because, if we can’t get to a PD-H everyone can agree on, this is the plan we’re going to move forward with. Hopefully we can find a better solution with a potential PD-H, where we come up with something better.”

Benefits for the developer include greater flexibility in the type and placement of structures. Dwellings permitted under the PD-H classification are described as “one-family, two-family and multi-family, detached, semidetached and attached.” Dwellings may be built adjacent to a lot line.

Benefits for the neighborhood include residences of a “character and type suitable to and compatible with the neighborhood.” Regulations address the height of dwellings, vehicular access and one issue that was specifically mentioned Tuesday – screening of the site. The PD-H classification provides for “fences, walls or vegetative screening at edges of PD-H districts shall be provided where needed to protect residents from undesirable views, lighting, noise or other off-site influences, or to protect occupants of adjoining residential districts from similar adverse influences within the PD-H district.”

The Whispering Pines house was built in 1928 and designed by the noted firm Pringle & Smith. A 1929 magazine story compared the architecture of the house to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.

In addition to preserving the house, the site plan could be altered to eliminate a cul-de-sac that’s to open onto West Paces Ferry Road. The cul-de-sac could be replaced with a street that opens on Northside Drive, or with a street that would connect West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Drive.

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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