PDF: Statement to the City Council

Review and analysis of the controversial planned unit development ordinance for Lookout Mountain, Ga., is the focus of a special called meeting tonight of the Lookout Mountain City Council.

Phil Walker, head of The Walker Collaborative, a Nashville-based urban and regional planning consultant group, will give a presentation about the city's proposed PUD ordinance.

A planned unit development, or PUD, ordinance would regulate all development - residential, commercial or a mix - for this mountaintop community of about 1,600.

"What I was hired to do was review the draft ordinance and give my opinion on three general questions," Mr. Walker said. "Is it consistent with comprehensive plan? Is it well written? And, should its adoption be postponed?"

There is general agreement the city's population will increase in coming years and development guidelines are needed, but the proposed PUD ordinance has sparked a clash of support and opposition.

Mayor Tom Gifford said the ordinance would make developers' proposals subject to approval by the planning commission and city council.

Mr. Walker explained: "The way a PUD works is like any other zoning regulation. It is a tool to implement plans that is all about flexibility. A PUD, by design, allows each project to be reviewed on its own merits."

A grassroots group, Lookout for Smart Growth, has developed a petition campaign against what they consider quick approval of a plan drafted primarily to allow one development, ChapelBrow, to proceed.

"I hope and expect the City Council to take the time to insure that this ordinance has stringent and professionally planned safeguards in it," Gail Bryan, an organizer with Lookout For Smart Growth, told the council earlier this month.

Petitioners asked that an independent professional land planner be hired to offer advice before the PUD became law.

"This is a partial step toward what we asked for," Ms. Bryan said about hiring Mr. Walker. "We asked for a collaboration between citizens, developers, land planners and elected officials. We want more public involvement with the entire process."

The council is not planning to vote on the ordinance tonight, Mayor Gifford said.

"This meeting will be to present information," Mayor Tom Gifford said. "We are trying to be as transparent with this process as possible."