Developer At Heart Of New Tuxedo Park Regulations Supports New Rules, appeals Decision On Existing Property April 13

3655 Tuxedo Road is the site of the contested subdivision. The demolished carriage house can be seen behind the home.

Stan Benecki could have reason to take issue with the new zoning rules implemented under Special Improvement District 25 (SPI 25) for Tuxedo Park. SPI 25 was passed by the Atlanta City Council March 20 to curtail new development within the historic neighborhood. After all, it was his request to subdivide a near-three-acre property at 3655 Tuxedo Road for the development of two homes that spurred the new restrictions. However, Benecki says he supports the SPI’s passage, which creates stringent regulations on setbacks and other zoning mandates aimed at preserving the “park-like character” of the neighborhood.

“Clear rules are good for everybody,” Benecki said. “When they are gray, that’s not good for anybody – it’s not good for us, it’s not good for the city, and it’s not good for the neighborhood. A key of good zoning and planning is for anyone to be able to read regulations and understand what you are and are not allowed to do. I like the new rules and regulations. You know exactly what you can do, and before [the SPI], it was subjective.”

Benecki said he supports “the majority” of the SPI, save for the house setback regulation that requires any new homes to have a front yard setback that is equal to “one-half of the lot depth.” The ruling prohibits any improvements or construction on the front half of a property.

Though Benecki is heralding the SPI for laying out clear zoning requirements, his subdivision request that led to creation of the new rules isn’t a foregone conclusion. Benecki says he is appealing the decision that effectively killed his request, arguing the proposal met all zoning criteria when it was filed. His appeal went before the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments at its April 13 meeting.

A Contentious Issue Revived

Benecki Homes’ request in late 2022 to subdivide the 2.7-acre property at the corner of Tuxedo Road and Woodhaven Road – which includes a Tudor-style home built in 1929 – into two lots led to a faction of neighbors speaking out against the application, including the Tuxedo Park Civic Association. The proposal met all zoning requirements in place at the time of the application, but neighbors filed an appeal to Atlanta’s Historic Preservation Studio. That office determined in January the subdivision would be rejected on the grounds it did not meet the traditional design and layout of the neighborhood. The decision was detrimental to Benecki Homes, which had already demolished a carriage house straddling the proposed property lines of the subdivision.

Benecki said the “whole goal” of the application was to develop the properties by-right by meeting the zoning requirements in place. Only after Benecki Homes had received a permit and demoed an existing structure did the City of Atlanta’s Office of Design’s Historic Preservation Studio rule against the request based on a letter penned by the Tuxedo Park Civic Association (TPCA).

“We demolished a perfectly great structure the city told us we had to tear down,” Benecki said.

Next steps

Though the Historic Preservation Studio’s decision and the passage of the SPI seemingly killed the request, the tussle between Benecki Homes and neighbors opposed to the application is not over. The BZA took up the issue at its April 13 meeting in which Benecki argued the subdivision will retain the historic home and lead to the development of a new home fitting with the neighborhood. Benecki said the TPCA said it was “fine” with tearing down the existing 1929 home and building a new home in its place, but that’s not the direction he wants to take.

“They would rather have new housing than a split, they just don’t want any new development,” he said. “They’re going to fight it, but we meet all the zoning codes. I find it strange the Civic Association would rather have a new house there than keep an old, beautiful structure. And on the new lot, they won’t even be able to see the house. But I guess it’s their opinion they don’t want new houses at all.”

The BZA is a five-member, “quasi-judicial board” that hears applications for variances, special exceptions to zoning ordinances and appeals of administrative decisions. According to the city’s website, the board “takes into consideration the recommendations” of the Office of Zoning and Development staff, the appropriate Neighborhood Planning Unit and testimony given during its hearing in rendering its decisions.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

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