21 Aug 2014
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Frazer Center Develops Plan on Land, Building Use

School to meet with parents, neighbors and DeKalb County officials Aug. 30.

Following months of debate and controversy regarding noise, traffic and concerns about potential development, officials from the say they have developed a three-pronged plan that should satisfy its Druid Hills and Lake Claire neighbors.

The Frazer Center — located at 1815 So. Ponce de Leon Ave. NE — 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.

Officials have planned a 7 p.m. public meeting on Aug. 30 in school atrium to discuss their proposals.

The plans include a proposed ordinance to create a Frazer Center District Overlay and two special land use permits governing its events facility and the school buildings themselves.

Communities find district overlays to be useful because they allow its residents to shape the streetscapes of the neighborhoods.

Grant Park and Inman Park, for example, have them and the goal is to prevent a mish-mash of development not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.

At the base of the row is that outside of countywide zoning and construction regulations, there are no county ordinances that specifically govern or address the Frazer Center's mission and how it uses its property.

The Frazer Center opened in 1949, before many of the zoning and platting regulations in Druid Hills took effect.

Further complicating matters is that the Frazer Center property itself falls in two different jurisdictions.

Divided into five parcels, two of those tracts, home to the school facilities, are in unincorporated DeKalb County and the other three are within the Atlanta city limits.

Trace Haythorn, the Frazer Center’s executive director, said these proposals address the issues and concerns and should allay neighbors’ fears.

"What we're trying to do is say 'here are what the permissible uses are for this space,' " Haythorn told East Atlanta Patch Thursday, following a presentation he made to Neighborhood Planning Unit-N, which includes Lake Claire and Druid Hills.

He told NPU-N the proposals followed many months of discussions with Druid Hills and Lake Claire residents, as well as Atlanta city and DeKalb County officials.

He reiterated that the Frazer Center is not deviating from its core mission of serving special needs children and adults.

He also sought to dispel the many rumors that have swirled about regarding the Frazer Center property:

  • Are you looking to sell? “No.”
  • Are you going to clear-cut or partially cut down the 39-acre Cator Woolford Gardens for development? “No.”
  • Are you going to expand the footprint of the buildings? “No.”
  • Are you going to sell a portion of the property to developers who want to build high-rise condos? “No.”

He said he longs for the day when he can focus the majority of his time on working with the kids and adults the Frazer Center serves.

"I really look forward to going back to working with children and adults with developmental disabilities," Haythorn said.

Passing the district overlay ordinance is critical, he said because it would allow the Frazer Center to repair a bridge that needs to be repaired.

That bridge, which dates back to the 1920s, is narrow and only is strong enough to bear motor vehicle weight of up to four tons.

It was that safety concern that led MARTA to reroute its MARTA Mobility mini-buses from the So. Ponce de Leon Avenue entrance to the Frazer Center's rear entry off Ridgewood Road in three years ago.

The mini-buses, used to transport Frazer Center clients, are five tons by themselves.

But the decision sparked frustration in Lake Claire as some residents complained of buses idling on side streets, blowing through stop signs or speeding. Other residents objected to their streets being used as a cut-through via the Frazer Center by motorists looking for short-cuts to Ponce.

Trace said the Frazer Center has been in discussions with MARTA officials to address the complaints. Further, he said the Frazer Center would be contracting with livery services firms to provide transportation, which should cut down on the bus traffic noise complaints.

In addition, he said they will construct an electronic gate to keep unauthorized personnel, mainly short-cut seeking motorists from driving through.

The bridge repair work will cost about $150,000. It already has $120,000 of that amount because of fundraisers and an anonymous donor's pledge of $100,000.

Even when the bridge repair is complete, the MARTA mini buses will continue to come to the school via the rear entrance, Haythorn said.

As for noise from events held by outside groups that rent the Cator Woolford Gardens' pavilion, Haythorn said that, too, has been addressed.

Those wishing too amplify their music must limit to 70 decibels; functions must be done by 10 p.m. and off the grounds by 11 p.m.

Facilities renters have signed contract that allow Frazer Center officials to shut an event down immediately for violating the new rules, he said.

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