Author Topic: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009  (Read 2924 times)

Offline ethercat

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Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« on: July 17, 2009, 18:40 »
The Planning Commission (PC) meeting was quite interesting, to say the least.  I've been thinking about what actually occurred, and what the ramifications are for 5395 Roswell Rd.

Video will be up soon, hopefully, and will allow people to watch what happened and what the decisions were.

Scientology brought in Bob Adams, from Los Angeles, VP of the Church of Scientology International, to try to swing the case, in scn lingo, to "make it go right."  They brought in a bunch of mounted renderings of the proposed insides of the building, complete with carpet samples, and lined them up along the back wall before the meeting started.  No one went over to look at them.  I had thought they would probably be presenting all these during their part of the meeting, but they didn't.  It was kind of like that part of the song, "Alice's Restaurant" where Arlo Guthrie talks about "27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was," which were never seen because the judge turned out to be blind.  Likewise, the renderings were not seen because the interior decoration of the building is not at issue - the issue is parking.

They also brought in a lot of the local (and possibly some shipped in, or Sea Org) scientologists, who, because they were never introduced, or referred to, really just appeared to the non-activist Planning Commission as more neighbors who were there to show their opposition to the rezoning application.

This was only the beginning of the footbulletry last night.

Mr. Galloway was given 10 minutes to make his statements, of which he used the first one or two to reintroduce his case and to introduce the Rev. Bob Adams.  Adams got up and told, in extensive detail, all about the building inside and how it would be used.  He told us about the counseling areas, which will be assigned to the individual auditors specifically, and how there will be day and night classes, and about the classrooms, as well as how traffic in the building would flow from one to another.  He told us about the large public display area on the first floor, which would have big screen TVs, playing the story of LRH and citing the history of scientology, so that the public could come in and learn about scientology.

Wait, what?  I thought Mr. Galloway had emphasized that the building would be for the use of the members only, and therefore would need less parking.  I remember countering this with photos of the bookstore sign inviting the public to come in and visit, and the Sunday Services, all welcome sign. 

Adams told how they had done a study and found that the optimum (and necessary) size for an Ideal Org was 4~,~~~ (forgot the exact number, sorry) of square feet, and that they had to have the basement buildout to operate, they must have it, he said.  He went on and on, and I was watching the clock run out.  Apparently, so was Galloway, and with about 2 minutes left, Galloway picked up his notebook and went to stand behind Adams.  Adams continued on, until Galloway had only one minute left, which was to include his rebuttal time.

There were 5 residents who lined up to speak, including our Ultrapoet at the end.  The first was an architect, who had studied the parking requirements of SS, and had assessed the building size.  He had determined that the building size was about 1500 ft2 larger than the 43,~~~ ft2 size being given at the meetings and on the application, and therefore would require more parking than was initially calculated.  Next up were 2 ladies, the first of which represents a 500-resident association, of whom all are opposed, and the second of which was President of the Round Hill Condominiums, and who has spoken in opposition at every meeting.  She is concerned about the traffic increase at the intersection, because she was in an accident there a few years ago.  Then Robin Beechy, a older man with a charming English accent (I'm a sucker for a nice English accent) spoke.  He ran out of time about halfway through his speech, and the PC voted to allot more time so he could finish, and so Ultra could give her speech.  Even with the extra time, unfortunately, Ultra was unable to finish hers, which had some comments that were different from any presented by anyone at the prior meetings.  Maybe she will post it in here for us to appreciate.

With the extra time granted to the opposition, the same amount had to be given to the applicant, that is, Galloway and Adams.  The PCs had some questions, and they asked Adams what his function was with scientology, was it his function to travel around and try to explain the building use and pave the way for the Ideal Orgs.  He talked a lot more, and didn't really say much, until one of the PCs called him on it, and told him to just answer the question.  He had spewed so much BS by that time, I don't even remember his answer, and I don't guess it was really that important anyway.  He did say that only half of the counseling rooms would be in use at a time (I guess Galloway must have said something to him during the opposition's speeches).  One of the PCs wanted to ask the architect how he had arrived at the area calculations that were different, and he said that he had scanned the building plans into AutoCAD and used a feature of it to get the area.  As I recall, Galloway had some objection, and the PC felt it necessary to say that he wasn't implying that the area had been intentionally misrepresented, and that he understood that there were different ways of calculating space in a building.  (If the shoe fits, Mr. Galloway...)

Mr. Galloway was upset by the interpretation the PC made of the parking study, and the fact that they interpreted it differently from what he intended it to show.

Nancy Leathers, Director of the Department of Community Development, had a brief but polite dispute with Galloway over what the law says about assessing necessary parking spaces, but her being the govt. and he being a mere attorney, she won.

The PC was glad to finally understand the use of the building after much weaseling by Galloway, thanks to Bob Adams.  They seemed to still be trying to wrap their heads around what kind of services this "church" holds, and what the use of the building would require in the way of parking.

In the end, the PC voted to accept the Department of Community Development's recommendation, which was to approve the rezoning with conditions.  One of the conditions is that they will not be allowed to enclose the underground parking area, but could count the spaces there in the total spaces provided. 

For some reason, this is unacceptable to the scientologists.  I can think of some possible reasons, and will speculate below, but I really need to seek further clarification to fully understand.

The first floor of the building does not meet the floor load requirement of 100 lbs. per foot (and I am unclear if this is specifically for an assembly area; I am under the impression that it is), and therefore they cannot build the "sanctuary" on any other floor than the basement (which they will not be allowed to enclose now).

If they cannot have a sanctuary, will they qualify to be called a place of worship, and will that change the parking requirements yet again?  If they cannot be called a place of worship, can they not qualify to be free from property taxes, which must be a bundle on a $5.6 million building, without a homestead exemption?

Here is more that I understand as it was explained to me:
Mr. Galloway argues that the parking space requirements with C of S must be the same as with any other place of worship in Sandy Springs, based on the size of the sanctuary.  However, he has stated that the proposed use is not that of a traditional church, as a way to explain why they planned such a small sanctuary (1200 sq. feet. in a 43,000 sq. ft. building).  (Of course, if the sanctuary were bigger, it would also require more parking spaces.)  Because of this, the parking will be calculated on additional uses of the building, instead of just based on the sanctuary size.  Galloway is not happy.

The requirements are:
Classroom:
5 spaces per 1000 ft2 at 11,153 ft2: 56
Office:
3 spaces per 1000 ft2 at 17,065 ft2: 51
-------------------------------------------------
Total required spaces:               107
Total existing spaces:               111


This is without the sanctuary, without the enclosed basement.  If the square footage was undercalculated, it will increase the spaces required.

There is also the issue of the perpetual easement granted by the US Post Office, on which 31 of the 81 surface parking spaces lie - there are questions being raised of the constitutionality of a government entity allowing the easement for a religious use.

I am still trying to understand all of this, so will add anything else once I do.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2009, 14:26 by ethercat »
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Offline ethercat

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Offline mefree

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2009, 19:21 »
Very nice summary, EC

Don't forget, Bob Adam's information was not to be considered in the PC decision because they failed to submit this ahead of time.

I agree that Bob's information was basically useless for Scn. If anything, I think it hurt rather than helped his case.

Ultrapoet did a lovely job with her speech but unfortunately got cut short due to time limitations.

Final observation: The Scn crowd looked like a very tired and older bunch for the most part. I did not see one young person amongst them.
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Offline ethercat

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2009, 19:33 »
Very nice summary, EC

Don't forget, Bob Adam's information was not to be considered in the PC decision because they failed to submit this ahead of time.

Oh yes!  I forgot about that!  Thanks for reminding me, and letting the readers know.
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Offline Stutroup

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2009, 20:30 »
Oh em Gee .... It seems another great meeting to me!  Even if the approval goes through, there will be SO many restrictions, the place will basiclly be locked down!

Offline mefree

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2009, 21:04 »
Not the outcome they had hoped for.
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Offline Lorelei

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2009, 23:01 »
Can't wait to watch the videos. *glee*
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Offline Lorelei

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2009, 04:25 »
Nutshelled as best I can:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkVWfTvBoDM
Council rep introduces issue; Galloway speaks, then Adams starts speaking.
Galloway challenges the council rep re: which parking study she is referring to (theirs or the CoS') and is dissatisfied with the response, as far as I can tell.
Adams refers to social betterment programs offered (e.g., Narconon, Applied Scholastics, Volunteer Ministers--no comment) and then waffles about irrelevant crap like rows and rows of books in a bookstore and the lovely wood paneling and video screens in the public areas. Apparently he had a whole presentation package  about the stuff done to the interior of the disputed bldg. to point at, and I presume he expected the neighbors to care about these things.
Why this misses the point: it has nothing to do with the issues the neighbors are complaining about, e.g., parking, traffic, EXTERIOR appearance of building. In fact, it underscores the neighbors' concerns that, with these "enticing" public services, parking and traffic issues will be inadequately addressed if the CoS gets their desired variance and closes off more parking spots.

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXeSiqgTvaY
Adams continues to speak; Daniel Hubble (?), architect speaks, Jane Kelly (representing High Point Civic Association) speaks.
Adams stresses that they must have the basement remodel to provide religious services. He stresses that the space is not adequate for the amount of people needing the religious services space. He does not address neighborhood concerns.  He does not address exterior reno / upkeep, parking, traffic, just repeats that they must have their way about this nclosed sanctuary space or they'll have hardship. No one is moved (as far as I can tell.)
Daniel Hubble (?), architect explains his expertise and says that this bldg is not suitable for an assembly space. Also challenges the square footage measurements;  says it is 44,569 sqft, not 43,246 sqft, which would increase needed parking. Says occupant load is too great for the space. Says parking for assembly use is insufficient. Notes sanctuary spot can't be placed anywhere but basement due to load-bearing issues.
Kelly takes issue with CoA parking study, cites a relevant law / case study (?), and goes into detail about why it is flawed and biased. Cites "precedent" as a serious concern. Parking has been underestimated. Will cause excessive / burdensome ue of structure. Will not provide enough parking spaces to meet code. Issues with CoS parking study: Nashville / ATL are not comparable in size. Nashville is newer Org, thus has smaller congregation, compared to ATL Org. "Conversations w/ CoS determined peak parking"; that sounds unfairly biased. Counts of people / cars were done only four times and not at peak times; one count was done an hour earlier than applicant's stated Sunday service time of noon. Allowing CoS zoning request sets a dangerous precedent that may be exploited by other entities seeking a zoning variance and neighbors are opposed to this. If approved, then the hundreds of neighbors want these conditions placed on the CoS: limit hours of operation to the general public (cites hours that are short, compared to desired hours stated by CoS), require applicant to provide traffic flow management for attendance at events exceeding capacity of bldg, require applicant to provide off-site parking / bussing arrangements for attendance at events exceeding capacity of bldg, applicant (CoS) must allow assemblage of protesters to protest on their right-of-way property and not nearby residential property, prohibit change to signage (no "Celebrity Centre" signage), prohibit solicitation / testing / selling / distribution of promotional materials on the property, etc. Murmurs are heard when she mentions protesters being restricted to protesting on CoS property. (Heh.)

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT2rxBuFZA4
Patty Burns, Round Hill condos HOA speaks, Robin Leachey (?) (British fellow mentioned above), representing Willow Glen HOA speaks, Sheila O'Shea (resident of Round Hill condominiums) speaks, attorney Galloway responds.
Burns: Disputes CoS parking study. Not a "religious" issue; other churches have ample parking. Also disputes the "church" designation, as church-related section of bldg is smaller than the office / classroom sections. Accident / injury data from that intersection is presented; it is noted it is from 3 years ago; comment that problem is worse now is made. Notes hundreds of neighbors opposing the zoning variance. Cites planned growth of CoS as important, as current congregation is already in excess of provided parking, etc.
Leachey: CoS has ambitions to grow and to spend on renovations. Disputes usefulness of Cos parking study. Does not want front groups to use bldg, as it would add to parking / traffic problems, specifically CCHR, WISE, Applied Scholastics (is cut off).
After dickering, Leachey is granted four additional minutes; four minutes also granted to CoS, the applicant, to be fair. Leachey says CoS bought inappropriate bldg for their needs and are trying to mold it to fit their needs: "Trying to fit a quart into a pint pot." If bldg is zoned for church use now, how will it be used in the future? (poor paraphrase) Dangerous intersection noted, again. Condition of property mentioned; notes state of property has been shabby for 3-4 years. Reiterates issues with parking, bad intersection, shabby state of bldg., shoddy state of bldgs owned by CoS in other cities. Not an appropriate case for a conditional approval, he says, firmly. "Do not engage in mental gymnastics in granting an approval for something for which the applicant is not even asking...the right answer here is a denial."
O'Shea: Bldg was build as an office bldg., is currently zoned as office bldg, and is unsuitable for any other use by CoS...or any other religion. Their sanctuary space is not analogous to other churches (explains why). The classes, training, auditing, etc., are not an adjunct to CoS religious practices, they ARE CoS's religious practices.
Allowing special privs. here may set dangerous precedent leading to frivolous "First Church of the Storage Closet" petitions from future applicants to get by zoning guidelines. Does not want CoS's overflow parking in parking lot of condos. Notes Galloway said large CoS events would be held off-site, but that he offers no details, O'Shea is not reassured or convinced. Starts to cite relevant legal reference, but runs out of time.
No further extension of opposition presentation time is given.
Galloway (representing CoS) speaks. Parking is supposedly determined by size of largest assembly area, "there is an excess of parking, based on your own code". Apply multi-use parking code to this church. All parts of bldg, offices, classrooms, chapel, etc., are relevant to--"every single part is an integral part of"--the practice of their religion. (IMHO, this further clouds the issue, and does not help the CoS.)

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quYuvMBHFts
Galloway speaks; Floor closed to public commentary; Council debates.
Galloway says every other church he cited in the CoS study got zoning variances asked for. CoS did buy property "with eyes wide open" and "knew what their needs are, what the size of their largest place of asembly would be." Kemblee-Horne(?) did do a parking study, it backs up CoS' assertions that parking is adequate. Compares Dunwoody site to Nashville site again, ignoring previous complaints that these are not comparable to SS site. Understood concern that Nashorg hasn't been open that long, has larger congregation than Dunwoody, had them study Buffalo church (do not recall this mentioned in study; he clarifies it was not in the study we've seen.)  Disses parking study done by council. Looked at "times of highest use" (disputed already, earlier).
Public comments closed; council begins to address issue.
Nancy (?) responds to council question about whether they have had time to review the additional info Galloway refers to. trying to understand situation in the long run. Says Adams' info may be useful, but does not see relevance yet. Can't take new info into consideration at this time.
Planning Commission (various; had trouble hearing some of the comments; please correct what I misinterpret or misunderstand):
* Appreciate Adams' presentation, as now understands how Org will be used. Still has problem with some details about "counselling" mentioned.
* Not sure if he understands, is hearing sanctuary is not the largst congregation area, according to Adams, needs clarification.
* Basing a parking requirement on an assemblage use is probably inappropriate for how they plan to use this bldg.
* Have to go back to square one; trust staff to come up with their numbers.
* Concerned about future, the growth of the church; shares many concern about similar things as the neighbors are. Cites 400+ letters of opposition. Thinks it is all a little "intense" for this site.
* Adams is asked if going around the country petitioning city councils and challenging variances is a common occupation for him. "Some churches have no parking requirement, because they are located middle in downtown cities...people take public transit." "Staff may be fairly small." "Carpooling makes a lot of sense." "Husbands and wives working together may carpool." (No mention of crap public transit system in ATL / SS at this point?!)

Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2QJVbaRKg8
Council again (various), discuss; some questions directed to applicant
* To CoS rep: "Do you understand why we are having a hard time coming to a decision? Do you experience this in other jurisdictions?"
* CoS: "No, we had more time to delineate what the spaces are used for, and per capita uses of bldg space, etc."
* CoS: "Counseling rooms are independently used by our counselors, it is not shared."
* CoS: "Part of it is used during daytime, part of it is at night." (referring to private one-on-one counseling rooms)
* CoS: "Part of the religious practice is theory, and part is practical..." & begins to discuss counselor's rooms and classrooms, but is cut off. No one cares about the details of CoS' beliefs or religious practices.
* Hubble, architect, is challenged. Says he looked at plans given by Galloway, used standard computer to determine sq. footage. Difference in sq.footage over 1,000 feet (1,500?) ...not an insignificant discrepancy
* That zoning impact analysis was done based on lower sq. footage is cited.
* To CoS: Discrepancy of sq. footage is probably an accounting error, we are not insinuating that you deliberately misrepresented this; please do not take offense.
* CoS (offended): We're not offended, but... This is a trivial matter! Five parking spaces more, waffle waffle waffle!! Five more parking spots!! Sputter! Harrumph!!

Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1LjzKFMM7o
Council (various) discusses
* We could make our recommendation based on a ratio, and let staff hash out / handle details.
* "That's appropriate" / "That's fine."
* We could agree on what the ratio is based on, and let staff hash it out.
* Case has been going on since March...is now July, and this is the first time we have gotten useful info about the use of the facility; this does great disservice to applicant, to community as a whole, and to staff. (CoS's legendary secrecy bites them in butt again.)
* Correct the record: we've discussed what we believe will be bldg's use, but this is first time we have had this info supplied by CoS, believe applicant has tried to provide in good faith but did not understand what PC needed
* Bottom line, new info from Adams can't be considered re: application because info arrived too late for reasonable consideration by staff.
Motion to accept staff recommendations, seconded
Discussion on motion:
* Wants to double-check on staff recommendation. What IS staff recommendation?
* "Staff recommends approval of existing bldg with existing parking for revised use, but NOT additional sq. footage added, or reduction of existing parking spaces."
* "This would preclude them from modifying underground parking or expanding sq. footage, but can reorganize within unaltered sq. footage...bldg interior, as it is."
* "Cannot convert parking to an enclosed space?"
* "Correct."
* "Must retain all parking slots on site as is, at this time?"
* "Yes."
* Should PC modify recommendation re: existing spaces based on three per thousand (occupancy stats)? Modify this ONLY to make consistent with existing parking?
* (Joking:) We aren't going to make them ADD spaces.
Roger: "I are confuse. Where did "ratio" stuff go? Wot hoppon?"
* Explanation: If we reduce the parking slots we'd require them to have instead of using a firm number, then we'd go to a ratio because we aren't currently sure what the actual sq. footage of bldg is; the current status was grandfathered in and will not change, thus we do not need to use a ratio after all.
* "Forget ratios, Roger." (Laughter)
Motion voted upon. Carries.
Asked: is there opposition? Yes. Measure is in opposition.
Add item into record info re: article 28 dash point 1 waffle waffle numbers numbers: concerning revising parking based on what Galloway referred to; in approving any zoning dist, change / use permit, city shall impose conditions as noted earlier (e.g., no Narconon, etc.)
Motion to include this commentary into record; agreed (as far as I can tell).
Clarification as to which section is being discussed is requested, given.
Motion voted upon; Ayes have it. Is there opposition? (unclear; assume yes.)
*end*

Again, things I misunderstood or misrepresented, plz. correct. I have slight middle ear (crowd) deafness, and when everyone gets to mumbling and interrupting and talking over each other, I have issues.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2009, 04:51 by Lorelei »
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Offline SocialTransparency

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2009, 08:46 »
 Sounds like the knee deep in BS ::) i heard @ the meeting. I only wanted to hear the motion from the PC. ;) It was a good one. The recommendation goes to the mayor and city council for a final vote.

 In synapses, what did C of S gain after 6 months of legal wrangling and financial expenditures? Answer is NOTHING! C of S of Ga is right back where they were five years ago regarding this property.

 They are back to square one. Please go back to the end of the line and try again. ;D

 

Offline SirBedevere

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2009, 10:47 »
Wow Lorelei!  You get my vote for stenographer of the year!  Thanks for the hard work!!
I listed to all 6 videos.  Admittedly my ADD started to kick in, especially when the Rev. explained the usage, but here is what I'm understanding between the videos and everyone's comments:
Apparently the zoning rule is that parking must accommodate the max capacity of the major purpose function.  For a regular church, that is the population of the sanctuary, cause no one is in the office or in the classrooms during services.  The building has no main sanctuary, or has a small one that present parking accommodates.However, CoS wants to use the basement, close it in and use it as a sanctuary.  A large one that blows away the parking accomodations.CoS also brought in the Rev. to explain that most of the usage is the classrooms, and half are used during the day and half at night (why not use the same rooms, since the morning and evening shifts do not overlap?)Since usage is the classrooms, and only half are used, CoS claims the parking is adequate.Council voted the way they did understanding that as the classrooms sit today, it grandfathers that parking is adequate, therefore they can rezone into a church.HOWEVER, they cannot build the sanctuary in the basement.  (CoS earlier claims the sanctuary is critical to the life of the org.)
So...  I though we lost since they got the rezoning, but apparently CoS feels like they lost because they can't build the sanctuary.  Why is a large gathering hall so important to them?  As I understand from you guys, they don't have a major "church service"?  Are they planning big conventions to be held here?
Again, this is all my conclusions based on my noob understanding of the org, and my ADD challenged analysis of the video.
FWIW - The engineering company that did the parking analyses is probably Kimley Horn & Assoc. consulting engineering firm.  http://www.kimley-horn.com/kha/Only guessing but came up on google.  I thing the Rev. called them Kimberly Horn.

Offline ethercat

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Re: Planning Commission Meeting, July 16, 2009
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2009, 14:30 »
The requirements are:
Classroom:
5 spaces per 1000 ft2 at 11,153 ft2: 56
Office:
3 spaces per 1000 ft2 at 17,065 ft2: 51
-------------------------------------------------
Total required spaces:               107
Total existing spaces:               111


I've been informed that these were the old recommendations, and are no longer applicable.  The new recommendation is 3 spaces per 1000 square feet.

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