BREAKING NEWS ... Moreland project clears major hurdle

Another vote, another victory for Sembler. Well, sort of.

Thursday night, the Atlanta Zoning Review Board approved the Sembler Co.'s rezoning application for the Atlanta Gas Light property just south of Little Five Points with a 4-2 vote.

Sembler is looking to turn the 42-acre parcel into a massive mixed-use development, containing 590,500 square feet of retail space (including possibly a Target) and no more than 200,000 square feet of residential space.

But Thursday night's vote wasn't a clear victory for Sembler. The zoning that the board bestowed upon the project wasn't what Sembler asked for.

Under the zoning the board authorized, the project would have to include more greenspace and more residential — things Sembler has resisted in negotiations with neighborhood groups, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the city's planning staff.

City planner John Bell said during the board's two-and-a-half-hour meeting March 13 that the developer's site plan called for a commercial development with residential units plopped on the site's edges.

The zoning designation that the board approved would go a long way to make the project a truly mixed-use development.

Also at the meeting, Noel Khalil — the owner of Columbia Pointe, a 52-unit apartment complex that will be torn down to make room for one of the big boxes on the property — announced that he'd include low-income housing and give current residents of Columbia Pointe first crack at the new housing. Khalil is developing the residential section for Sembler.

The city planning staff unsuccessfully recommended that Khalil help pay for the residents' relocation expenses.

The project's next hurdle will be the Atlanta City Council, and then the mayor's office.