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College Park considers rebuilding of apartment units

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

Two three-story buildings are being considered for re-construction at the Village of College Park, located at 4060 Herschel Road, in College Park.

College Park's mayor and city council took action on preliminary plans to start the process of rebuilding the apartment buildings, that will contain 24 units, during a council meeting on Monday. The 24 units were recently destroyed in a fire at the complex.

Mayor Jack Longino and city councilmembers approved an application for a "Conditional Use Permit," said Bill Johnston, of Strategic Planning Initiatives, LLC., who serves as a city planner for College Park. "It is a zoning permission granted subject to specified conditions," added Johnston. Those conditions, he said, include complying with city and fire codes.

He said the next step is for architects and engineers on the project to submit architectural drawings, and provide details of the build to the city.

During the council meeting, Longino and Councilmembers Ambrose Clay, Joe Carn, Tracey Wyatt and Charles Phillips, Sr., had a concern before approving the request, which involved water meters.

Lacy Chivers, executive property manager for WinnResidential, said WinnResidential provides residential property management for the Village of College Park. She said the property has a master water meter, because it pays for residents' water and sewer bills. "It is an affordable housing community," she added.

"Can we have water meters for each unit?" asked Councilman Clayton. Chivers stressed that residents are not responsible for their water and sewer bills, but they are required to pay their own power bills.

Councilman Wyatt argued that the council recently voted for any new construction to have single water meters for residents and property owners. "We don't allow master meters [any longer]," he said.

"It is very difficult to change that system right now," responded Councilman Phillips.

Chivers said the apartment complex is part of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which is operated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

According to the Department of Community Affairs' web site -- www.dca.state.ga.us -- the program assigns federal and state tax credits to owners of qualified rental properties. These owners reserve all, or a part of their units, for low-earning tenants.

Chivers explained that the complex only admits people who qualify within their minimum-and maximum-income restrictions. Tenants are responsible for normal rent payments, she said.

Wyatt said it is important to install individual water meters, in case Village of College Park experiences a change in ownership. The new owner may not want to be responsible for paying the tenants' water-and-sewer bills, he said.

"It looks like you are going to have to look at individual meters, anyway," said Councilman Carn, to Chivers. Mayor Longino suggested that the buildings be built capable of housing single water meters.

Andrew Jessup, a registered architect for Southeast Studios, Inc., said there will be an additional cost, if single water meters will be required for the 24 units. "Water meters cost about $1,000 to $2,000, and 24 of those can run up to $40,000," he said.

The council agreed to look at the issue more closely as the project moves along.

The apartment complex originally had 104 units, but lost 24 in the fire, said Chivers. The re-constructed buildings will be paid for through the property's insurance, said Chivers. She said she was unsure of the project's cost. "At this point, it is preliminary," she said.

Teresa Everett, fire chief for the City of College Park, said the fire occurred on March 21, at 4:35 p.m. It was in an attic, and was "fed" by a strong crosswind. The department was able to safely evacuate all the tenants from the area, she said.

The cause of the fire was undetermined after an extensive investigation, she said. "Because the cause was undetermined, we are unable to specify how the fire could have been prevented," she added. The fire chief said the buildings were compliant with fire safety codes that were relevant to the year of construction.

During the meeting, Everett admitted that there were water-pressure issues when the fire department responded to the incident. "The water pressure and volume are important to the fire department's ability to apply a sufficient amount of water to the fire, or to use to protect exposures," she said. "The current fire load exceeds the capability of the existing water supply systems, as a result of the year the structure and supporting water infrastructure was built, and applicable fire codes at the time."

Jessup said the new buildings will have a green infrastructure, with recycled flooring. "We are producing new buildings, and it will increase a number of substantial energy savings," he said.

Jessup said both buildings are a total of 29,010 square feet, and will have units with one bedroom, as well as, two and three bedrooms. The old buildings were a total of 25,662 square feet, he said. "The changes of the building code caused us to increase the square footage," he said.

The architect said he must also abide by Life Safety Codes, which includes providing easy accessibility for firefighters, during a rescue.

The two buildings will have a fire wall in between that will resist burns for at least two hours, he said. "It is designed so that [even if] everything around it burns down, it will stay standing, and won't let fire burn through it for a very long time."