Land Use and Zoning FAQ

Land Use and Zoning FAQ
MNA Land Use Committee

 The Land Use Committee is part of the Community Review Partners Process.

 Welcome to the Midtown Neighbors' Association Land Use Committee. The following is designed as a general guide and introduction to the neighborhood review process, the terminology, anad a synopsis of the most relevant codes, texts and pertinent maps. It is designed to make the process more transparent and assist the LUC board members in understanding both the structure of the review process and to provide easier access to the most referenced codes under review.


What is the Land Use Committee (LUC)?

Composed of a board of residents this body reviews all permitted projects in the neighborhood that are remanded from either the DRC or the NPU. Applicants are required to make a presentation of their project to the applicable LUC committee. Each LUC consists of committee members representing the corresponding neighborhood residents. The LUC convenes monthly (or as needed) to comment on permit applications within the neighborhood. The LUC reviews projects and makes recommendations to the MNA Board of Directors who vote on such recommendations and carry them via the board’s representative to the NPU. Members are appointed by the Chair and represent the various sub areas and interests of the neighborhood.


What is the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU)?

The City of Atlanta is divided into 25 Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs), which are citizen advisory councils that make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on zoning, land use and other planning issues.  The NPU system was established in 1974 to provide an opportunity for citizens to participate actively in the Comprehensive Development Plan, now called the Atlanta Strategic Action Plan, which is the city's vision for the next 5, 10, and 15 years.  It is also used as a way for citizens to receive information concerning all functions of city government.  The system enables citizens to express ideas and comment on city plans and proposals while assisting the city in developing plans that best meet the needs of their communities. The NPU is often composed of a series of congruent neighborhoods. Midtown is part of NPU-E which is composed of Midtown, Ansley Park, Sherwood Forest, Brookwood Hills, Ardmore, Brookwood, Loring Heights, Atlantic Station, Home Park, Georgia Tech, and Marietta Street Artery.


What is the Development Review Committee (DRC)? Established as an advisory group for the purpose of providing to the Director of the Bureau of Planning formal comments on Special Administrative Permit (SAP) applications within a particular SPI zoning District. Applicants are required to make a presentation of their project to the applicable DRC committee.

Each DRC consists of committee members representing the corresponding SPI district stakeholders, including property owner(s), business owner(s), or resident(s), and applicable neighborhood organization(s). The DRC convenes monthly (or as needed) to comment on SAP applications within a particular District. Each DRC has a time period of 30 days from the date the formal SAP application is presented to the DRC to submit written recommendations concerning a project to the Director (or Staff designee) of the Bureau of Planning.
What is a Recommendation?

Residents should know that the recommendations are just that and do not represent a legally binding document or change to a specific zoning ordinance. A recommendation is the neighborhoods suggestion and conditions for its approval of an application within the Community Partners Review Process. The final determination of an application and any pursuant conditions or stipulations rests with the city.

How does a Recommendation move forward?

Within the Community Partners Review Process the various entities (NPU, Neighborhood Association and Land Use Committee) make recommendations to the entity above within the chain. Thus the Land Use Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors of the MNA, once voted on the MNA will forward the recommendation to the NPU-E. The NPU-E will hear the case consider the recommendation from the appropriate neighborhood and then vote to accept that recommendation or write their own. The NPU-E's recommendation is the one forwarded to the city.

What is contained in the Recommendation?
The recommendation may contain a vote to oppose, a vote to not oppose or in instances where the application is coming through the process for review- suggestions to the applicant in regards zoning ordinances, precedent, design or concerns and issues pursuant to public safety, traffic or quality of life issues that effect the Midtown community.
What are the Boundaries of Midtown?

The Midtown Neighborhood is part of Neighborhood Planning Unit-E (NPU-E). It is bounded on the south by North Avenue, to the north along Peachtree where it crosses I-85, on the west by the Connector (I75/85) and on the east by Monroe Drive to Tenth Street along the southern edge of Piedmont Park up along Piedmont Road to Fifteenth Street and then along Peachtree Street forming the border between Midtown, Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest.


Midtown contains three defined areas: Historic Midtown (the area of residential homes between Piedmont Road on the west and Monroe Drive on the east, south of Tenth street and north of Ponce de Leon); The Midtown Improvement District (MID), which is composed of two Special Public Interest Districts (SPI); SPI-16 and SPI-17. SPI-16 is the area designated west of Piedmont Road to the connector and could be considered the central business area of Midtown. SPI-17 is the area designated along Piedmont Road from North Avenue to Fifteenth street.


The following maps are available for reference at the back of this binder. They document the zoning ordinances of the Midtown area:


  1. NPU-E Map
  2. SPI-16 Map
  3. SPI-17 Map
  4. Official Zoning Map City of Atlanta:

90 of 129

16 of 129

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98 of 129

91 of 129


Zoning Terms and Definitions


What is the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)?

The Board of Zoning Adjustment is a quasi-judicial board of 5 appointed members who hear applications for variances and special exceptions from the zoning ordinance, as well as appeals of administrative decisions. When making a decision concerning an application, the BZA takes into consideration the recommendations of the Bureau of Planning (BOP) staff and the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) as well as testimony given at hearings.


What is the Zoning Review Board (ZRB)?

The Zoning Review Board consists of 9 members, appointed by the Mayor and City Council, who meet twice a month to consider property rezonings and special use permits. The Zoning Review Board takes into consideration the recommendations of the relevant Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) and the Bureau of Planning (BOP) staff and makes recommendations on rezonings to the Zoning Committee of City Council.


Variance- A modification of a zoning district regulation is granted by the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)


Special Exception- Exceptions to zoning regulations are granted by the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for specifically-defined situations where affects on surrounding property are of principal importance.


Special Administrative Permit (SAP)- A document issued by the Bureau of Planning where complex or unusual technical determination are involved and/or matters involving temporary uses.


SPI- Special Public Interest Districts- Special Public Interest (SPI) Districts are created:


(1)   To officially designate areas as having special and substantial public interest in protection of existing or proposed character, or of principal views of, from, or through such areas;

(2)   Surrounding individual buildings or grounds where there is special and substantial public interest in protecting such buildings and their visual environment; or

(3)   In other cases where special and substantial public interest requires modification of existing zoning regulations, or repeal and replacement of such regulations, for the accomplishment of special public purposes for which the district was established.

It is further intended that such districts and the regulations established therein shall be in accord with and promote the purposes set forth in the comprehensive development plan and other officially adopted plans of the city in accordance with it, and shall encourage land use and development in substantial accord with the physical design set forth therein.


Zoning FAQS



What is zoning?

The City of Atlanta is divided into zones or districts that regulate the physical development of the land and limit the uses to which a property may be put.  These zoning districts also regulate the height, overall size and placement of buildings on a lot, the density at which buildings may be constructed, and the number of parking spaces that must accompany each new building.


What is the purpose of the Zoning Ordinance?
To provide Regulations with the general objective of promoting desirable living conditions and to encourage the most appropriate use of land for orderly growth and development.


Who is responsible for administering the zoning ordinance?

Zoning Review Board (ZRB) - This body consists of 9 members, appointed by the Mayor and City Council, who meet twice a month to consider property rezonings and special use permits.  The Zoning Review Board takes into consideration the recommendations of the relevant neighborhood planning unit (NPU) and the Bureau of Planning staff and makes recommendations on rezonings to the Zoning Committee of City Council.


Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) - This body consists of 5 appointed members who meet twice a month to consider applications for variances and special exceptions from the zoning ordinance.  The Board of Zoning Adjustment takes into consideration the recommendations of the relevant neighborhood planning unit (NPU) and the Bureau of Planning staff.


Bureau of Buildings Zoning Division - This office is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the zoning ordinance.  The Zoning Division checks all building permits for compliance with the zoning ordinance, conducts research to verify the zoning classification for a given property, and responds to permit related zoning complaints.  It is also responsible for approving sign permits, business licenses, and liquor licenses.


What is “Lot Area Coverage?”
Lot Area Coverage is a specific percentage of the lot, which may be used for buildings and structures, and/or paved areas such as swimming pools, and other property features that create imperious surfaces.


What is “Floor Area Ratio (FAR)?”
Floor Area Ratio is a certain percentage of development on the lot, which controls the density.


What are required yard setbacks?
Distance from property lines which define the area in which structures and/or parking may be constructed.


What is a non-conforming use?
A land use that does not comply with the currently assigned zoning classification.


What is a non-conforming structure?
A structure that does not meet currently applicable yard setbacks.


To what degree can a non-conforming use be expanded?
Only by the granting of a special exception by the Board of Zoning Adjustment.


To what degree can a non-conforming structure be expanded?
To any extent that complies with the particular zoning classification and/or by approval of a yard setback variance by the Board of Zoning Adjustment.


Can the Bureau of Buildings grant administrative variance?
Generally No – however there is limited authority to reduce required parking requirements for the preservation of trees or modifications to improve water runoff.


What are the parking requirements for a restaurant?
Most zoning classifications require 1 parking space per 100 sq. ft. of floor area. Additional parking may be required for an outdoor seating area.


What parking restrictions does the Zoning Code have on a single-family residence?
Restricts parking in certain locations or on a residential lot and may assign a required number of parking spaces.


What distinguishes a single-family residence from a duplex?
A single family dwelling shall contain only one (1) kitchen. A duplex has two living units containing independent kitchen facilities.


What fences are allowed in residential districts?
Four (4) ft. fences are allowed in required front yard setbacks; 6 ft. open fences; 8 ft. walls are allowed in side and rear yard setbacks.


What is the City of Atlanta position on alleys?
(a) The City of Atlanta is not and shall not be responsible for the maintenance of alleys, with the exception of three alleys (sometimes referred to as “public alleys”), which have been historically maintained by the City of Atlanta. These three alleys are located in the central business district, connect major thoroughfares, are paved, and serve general transportation and public purpose. The alleys thus excepted are:

1. Mortgage Place, N. W., from Carnegie Way to Ellis Street
2. Equitable Place, N. E., from Auburn Avenue to Edgewood Avenue
3. Cain Place, N. W., from International Boulevard to Harris Street. (b) The City has no interest in, and shall not be responsible for any other alley within the City limits. Public service vehicles such as garbage trucks, fire safety vehicles, or police vehicles may make use of alleys in the provision of their service. However, none of these or other historic or present uses shall constitute public ownership of, interest in, or responsibility for said alleys. (c) The City shall not maintain or improve any private alley except when the City is an abutting property owner or the alley serves as access to a City facility. (d) The Board of Zoning Adjustment is authorized to approve variances to allow access to properties via alleys in lieu of required individual driveways from public streets.


How do I find out what a property is zoned?

Consult the official online zoning maps.

Fill out an online zoning verification request form.

Contact the Zoning Division of the Bureau of Buildings:

    • Call 404-330-6175 and leave a message that includes the address of the property in question.
    • Download and print a zoning verification form and fax it to 404-331-8902 or mail it to the following address:
      Atlanta Bureau of Buildings
      attn: Zoning Enforcement
      55 Trinity Avenue SW, Suite 3900
      Atlanta, GA 30303

How do I find out the regulations in a specific zoning district?

The Atlanta Code of Ordinances is maintained online by Municode, a third party company that electronically publishes municipal codes.  You can browse the entire ordinance online –Http:// - just scroll down to Part 16 (Zoning) on the left or use the search box in the upper left corner.  To read the regulations for a particular zoning district, choose from the list at the top of the city of Atlanta online page-Http://


A copy of the Atlanta Zoning Ordinance can also be purchased from the Bureau of Planning for $60.


Zoning District Description Table - These brief descriptions of each zoning district are intended to give a general idea of the intent of each district.  For specific questions, please refer to the regulations for each district in the zoning ordinance.

Residential Zoning District Regulations - This table summarizes the basic requirements for R zoning districts and provides diagrams to illustrate setbacks and minimum lot sizes.

- See more at: