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Gilchrist To Bring Planning, Permitting Successes To Atlanta
Valuable Lessons About Vinyl Windows
Birmingham () - Birmingham's MIT and Harvard educated Director of Planning, Engineering, and Permits William A. Gilchrist is leaving his position to tackle bigger planning challenges in Atlanta. During his tenure, Gilchrist initiated or carefully sheparded through a mind boggling array of transportation, greenway, revitalization, land-use, and master plans and helped to create a unique four-dimensional web of zoning overlays that has kept harmful over-development at bay during an unprecedented period of economic growth in our region and the country as a whole. The Atlanta Bureau of Planning now hopes to tap into some of that creative energy as it struggles to achieve the same level of success.

"Atlanta was about the same size as Birmingham only a few decades ago," said Charletta Wilson Jacks, Director of Atlanta's Bureau of Planning. "Birmingham has managed their growth so much better than we have." What Jacks hopes to do is use Gilchrist's expertise, particularly in planning, to ensure responsible growth in the future. "Take parking for example," said Jacks. "In the past our zoning areas were too large and we did not have enough zoning classifications. This allowed developers to use tricks like 'shared' parking zones without incurring the cost of creating actual parking. This has been a disaster as areas like Midtown, Fairlie-Poplar, Sweet Auburn, and Buckhead are overwhelmed with people cramming into the available parking or using MARTA and walking for several blocks to the shops and restaurants. We need more empty parking decks to accommodate this flood."

Jacks also bemoans the lack of control over the rehabilitation of homes in formerly blighted areas like Inman Park and Candler Park. "The homes are all different colors and they have used a lot of vinyl windows," said Jacks. Gilchrist plans to put an end to this by implementing the same Historic and Commercial Revitalization zoning overlays that have been so successful in Birmingham. This will slow down the permitting process and hopefully drive smaller developers out of Atlanta. "We have been able to keep Woodlawn, Ensley, and Titusville looking almost the same as they did in the 1970's," said Gilchrist. "People's sense of place has been getting lost in the ever changing Atlanta landscape. People need to know their place."

Birmingham as yet does not have a plan fill Gilchrist's giant shoes. "We will get by with what we have," said Mayor Larry Langford. Deputy director Andre Bittas will replace Gilchrist while the city decides what to do. "We are looking for someone with a PhD in Urban Studies, Religion, or Building Materials," said Langford.