The 3½-story house on Lois Street with a 180-degree view of Sandy Springs, Buckhead and Atlanta is nearly complete, but the controversy surrounding it has yet to subside.
Mary Rose Barnes, president of the Oakdale Community Association, had some strong words for the 3,694-square-foot home calling it “ugly,” “an erector set” and a “four-story shotgun shack” with “no style.”
“It’s out of character with the neighborhood,” she said. “There are no 50-foot-high single-family homes in all of the city of Smyrna. And that is probably the worst-case scenario.”
When completed the three-bedroom house will feature a three-car tandem garage, an elevator and two open air patios overlooking Atlanta to the southeast.
The controversy surrounding the house came to a head this spring at a Smyrna city council meeting when the home’s architect, Michael Landry, requested that the council grant a zoning variance to allow the 3½-story home to be built in the Lois Pointe neighborhood. The homeowner had contracted with Landry and Atlanta Signature Homes to build a house on Lois Street that would be tall enough to have a view of the Atlanta skyline.
The original zoning, which was approved in October 2005, allowed for homes to be built no taller than 35 feet, about 1½-stories. Several neighboring residents, some of whom live just outside Smyrna limits, came to the hearings this past April and May to express concerns about how a 3½-story house would negatively affect their property values, how it would fit in with the existing architecture and whether it would obstruct their own views of Atlanta.
Barbara Draluck opposed the project and her Glenpointe Way home is behind the new construction. “The zoning meeting had no interest in our thoughts since our subdivision is not in the city of Smyrna,” she said in an email.
One man who owns a neighboring house on Lois Street favored the development saying he thought it would improve his property’s value.
Despite the criticism, the council passed the zoning variance 6-1 with a dissenting vote from Jimmy Smith, Ward 5, at the May 2 city council meeting. The variance also included a second lot on Lois Street. A two-story home is currently being constructed there.
Three months later, the house on Lois Street has been framed and sided and will soon be ready for the homeowners to move in. Barnes fears what the city’s decision means for future development in Smyrna.
“Actually the worst part about it is the precedent it’s probably going to set for the city of Smyrna,” she said. “If you no longer have a 35-foot building height, you have a 50-foot building height.”
Barnes thinks this problem could have been avoided if the city had established stricter codes when development on Lois Street first began.
“The original zoning would have allowed eight (houses),” she said. “They wanted 11. So they got three more houses than the zoning code allows. They were given just a tremendous exception to the code to do this. And it’s not because of the recession. This was 2005.”
Despite the sluggish economy, Landry said that three other parties had expressed strong interest in some of the adjacent vacant lots. One of the parties was also interested in building a home with a view. Landry is enthusiastic about the project.
“It’s great,” he said. “Fill those vacant spaces.”
Lois Street is zoned for 11 houses. There are currently six available lots on the street.
Rob Anagnostis, the project's contractor, projects that once the home is complete it will be appraised at between $650,000 and $700,000.
He added that he thought the criticism of the home's size was exaggerated explaining that it is only about five feet taller than the previous zoning order's maximum height allowance.
"We’re not planning on building all the homes this size," he said. "We can get three stories here (the adjacent vacant lot). The other thing that we wanted to make sure was we didn’t want to put this (the 3½-story house) right beside the existing homes over there. So we have just barely graduated them up. So we don’t go but like a half a story up from one home to the next so the streetscape will look correct."
The 3½-story house on Lois Street is scheduled for completion within the next three months.