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DeKalb County Commission Approves Frazer Center Zoning Plan

School can begin property improvements.

LAKE CLAIRE & DRUID HILLS — The DeKalb Commission on Tuesday approved the Frazer Center's zoning overlay and special land use permits, paving the way for the insitution to move forward with development plans for the property.

The approval  — commissioners asked for some revisions — brings an end to a development debate of more than two years that embroiled the school with Lake Claire and Druid Hills, the two neighborhoods within which the Frazer Center campus sits.

"Needless to say, we are thankful to Commissioners Rader and Gannon and Council Member Archibong for their leadership in moving the process forward, and we are excited about refocusing our energy on our mission," Trace Haythorn, the Frazer Center's executive director said in a statement.

"We feel we have the clarity to move forward now in a manner that lets us advance our mission while respecting our neighborhood."

The school, founded in 1949, is a not-for-profit organization that serves infants, preschoolers and adults with physical and developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Down's syndrome.

Among the planned changes:

  • Creating additional parking space
  • Relocating the large, waste receptacles
  • New property signage
  • Installing of fencing adjacent to the south entrance and in the Gardens. 

It sought the zoning overlay and special land use permits because it wanted to make changes to the property to accommodate growth and address other concerns.

But since the school falls in Lake Claire, which is city of Atlanta, and in Druid Hills, too, which is DeKalb County, there were no consistent zoning and use guidelines for both districts.

In addition, some Lake Claire residents objected to MARTA mini-buses idling on their streets while waiting to pick Frazer Center on the back side of the property. They also complained about motorists speeding through the side streets and not following posted speed limits or yielding to pedestrians.

The buses, delivery trucks and motorists were rerouted to the use the back entrance of the school — the part of the property in Lake Claire — because a 100-year-old bridge accessed via the front entrance on So. Ponce de Leon Ave. NE wasn't structurally safe enough to handle the volume of daily traffic.

But the school says the bridge's retrofitting is complete and all visitors, with the exception of MARTA and emergency vehicles, will use the front entrance from now on.

The front courtyard will be converted into a "Garden of the Five Senses" following a donation from the Bright Horizons Foundation.

That project is expected to be completed by April, and the school plans a celebration of all the changes for sometime in early spring.

Natalyn Archibong, whose district includes Lake Claire, said both sides made concessions that should alleviate the biggest concerns.

MARTA has consolidated the number of buses that come through Lake Claire and the buses that do come have altered routes so they're not all coming down on Ridgewood Road.

That the bridge has been repaired to reduce traffic also is a good result.

Archibong said she plans to take the traffic safety one step further by introducing legislation next month to have two speed humps installed on Ridgewood Road, which will cost about $10,000. The legislation will trigger a survey of Ridgewood Road residents and at least 75 percent of them must want them in order for it to proceed.

Archibong also she will have the crosswalks on the street repainted.

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