If organizers and supporters of the Greater Hidden Hills overlay code -- which would preserve green space, invite positive development and create attractive streetscapes -- have their way, the code will be finished by the end of this year.
For the time being, they are inching through a detailed process that requires several approvals and more input before the proposal can become reality.
While the effort that began in 2007 wasn't expected to progress at lightning speed, some setbacks have stretched out the experience. Still, the goal is to get the overlay code finished in 2011, said Jan Costello, coordinator, Greater Hidden Hills Overlay District Committee.
"We have to follow this through," she said. "People have to feel like they can make a difference. We're going to be taken seriously. We're going to get it done."
The overlay code would help give the district “a marquee feel” Costello said, complete with a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing look supported by economically viable, desirable businesses, and some mixed-use development.
Given the depth of the proposed changes and all the stakeholders involved, crafting the plan in itself couldn’t be a quick turnaround.
“We spent 2007 to 2009 just coming up with our vision,” Costello said.
That vision includes having a more walking-friendly community – proposed improvements include more sidewalks and trails -- and protecting the area’s abundant green space, among other enhancements. There is no information yet on how much the various changes would cost.
The catalyst that sparked the push for an overlay code: the Hidden Hills golf course going bankrupt five times in 10 years. “That was the kicker,” Costello said. “We just can’t go through this again.”
Indeed, it’s been a few years since drivers or pedestrians coming through the Hidden Hills neighborhood had to mind the diamond-shaped yellow “Golf Cart Crossing” signs near the course.
The game is no longer played on the expansive land, covering some 180 acres; no social or business gatherings are happening at the closed country club.
The goal of the overlay code is to get more positive energy flowing throughout the community, supporters say.
County employees and residents have put a lot of time in the project, Costello said. A $40,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission made the draft development possible.
Progress on the overlay code was affected in part by county staffing changes last year. But available resources aside, there are several more steps on the road to bringing the overlay code to fruition, such as finishing the draft and submitting it to entities including PEP -- Planning, Economic Development and Public Works -- and the county legal department.
Before it’s all over, the plan goes to the community council, planning board, and DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
The Greater Hidden Hills Overlay District isn’t the biggest in DeKalb County; the I-20 overlay is the largest, running from Gresham Road to Panola, said Madolyn Spann, planning manager with DeKalb County Department of Planning and Sustainability. The Stonecrest overlay is also a sizeable project, she said.
The Hidden Hills plan covers a wide area that includes Covington Highway and Hairston, Redan, and Panola roads, as well as a number of other residential neighborhoods in the area -- Mainstreet, and Chapman Mills, among them.
Under the code, some mixed-use development would be allowed at the defunct Hidden Hills Country Club in exchange for preserving the golf course.
Uses of the space could include an executive level golf course, as well as walking trails, for example, Costello said.
The proposed changes would create “a vibe that makes it amenable for people to do business here,” she said.
The lengthy county process isn’t about the project’s size and scope; it’s about ensuring that everything is done properly, Spann said: “When you put it in writing and it gets adopted, you've got to get it right."
The next Hidden Hills meeting is Thursday, May 5 at Berean Community Center, 2440 Young Road, Stone Mountain.