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55 Comments

  1. 1

    Brookhaven Bob

    Why is there so much employee turnover in our city?

  2. 2

    Susan

    I thought Susan Canon was in big with Marie and I am surprised she is gone. Is she another city manager casualty?

  3. 3

    Thomas Porter

    Its like that Queen song: Another One Bites The Dust.

  4. 4

    Pam Moon

    Hi Thomas. This is just another example of why institutional knowledge should be valued more by the city. We’re zoning ourselves out of what Brookhaven was formed to protect. Ironic.

  5. 5

    Thomas Porter

    Part of me believes that this could be the strategy of Marie Garrett, how can someone replace her when that base of knowledge doesn’t exist? Meanwhile, we all suffer.

  6. 6

    City-Weary

    Another problem as I see it is that there appears to be too much disconnect between the responsibilities of Brookhaven (zoning and building permits) and those of DeKalb (environmental/water/sewer etc. for the same properties.) I’ve seen rezonings being allowed without any knowledge of whether it would pass muster with DeKalb’s authorities. Meanwhile our watershed is in grave danger from massive overbuilding in the area (not just Brookhaven but Dunwoody too).

    I wonder to what end all this rush to build is going to lead.

  7. 7

    Red

    Thomas, you are so on the money! So many of us see that Marie Garrett is the only official making policy and controlling processes in Brookhaven, while the ELECTED officials are out to lunch. Garrett seems to care about nothing but making her developer friends happy and much, much richer (wonder what she gets out of this), while the people who actually LIVE in Brookhaven watch their beautiful, forested city disappear before their very eyes. Once she has destroyed our little city, she will go back to her vanilla subdivision city and survey her spoils.

    Some people have principles, but they have not been drawn to Brookhaven – or, if they made the decision to come here to try to help build a livable city, they quickly realized their mistake and beat a hasty retreat. How long do we have to put up with this city “manager,” aka developer enabler? Where are the people elected to represent us? Why are they invisible?

  8. 8

    Thomas Porter

    One might quip “the toilet”, but that’s too close to a serious issue at the above referenced construction project.

    Issue a permit… let it be DeKalb’s problem; trouble is, it won’t be, it will be the purchaser and neighbor’s problem.

  9. 9

    John Houck

    My wife and I just bought a house and will move to Brookhaven at the end of April. We love the city but, after reading Mr. Porter’s open letter about poor oversight of Brookhaven’s city managers and observing the poor zoning and planning evident along Dresden, we’re a little nervous about the long term negative effects from the city’s poor management. Brookhaven Bob asked a really valid question above:”Why is there so much employee turnover in our city?” Good leadership at the top will attract quality people in key positions. Does Brookhaven have this going for it? I’d hate to see our city suffer in the long run because of inept leadership and stupid politics. Thomas, you sound like a valid candidate to run for office or employed as a city manager. Are you interested in trying for either position? I’m not intending to put you on the spot. I appreciate you taking your time to write an informative open letter to us residents.

  10. 10

    Carrie

    Hey Mr. Porter,

    Interesting take on the micro issues of zoning. On another point, how much in taxpayer dollars were wasted when you sued the city of Brookhaven because you backed into a tree in the city hall parking lot. I hear you dismissed the case against the city without prejudice so you could file it all over again. Apparently, the city’s landlord wasn’t so lucky because they didn’t send a lawyer. You did get some money judgment didn’t you? Not very transparent of you not to have ever disclosed that, huh? Anyway, I guess interesting little stories like that don’t warrant attention.

  11. 11

    Thomas Porter

    I would be a terrible political representative, and, the City deserves far better than me. I’m simply interested in this City being as good as it should be as a citizen. Thanks.

  12. 12

    Riley

    By way of background, it should be noted that while there is construction probably taking place in District 1, because the lots are so large, variances and such are rarely required. Meanwhile, in Districts 2 & 3, there is a substantial amount of new construction taking place right now. On my two-block street, there are currently 6 houses under construction, with at least two more planned. The streets are a mess and frequently blocked by construction activity. Add to this intense level of construction the fact that the lots in Districts 2 & 3 are usually smaller than in District 1 and you have the circumstances that lead to variances.

    Once in place, any variance then becomes the “standard”, since any subsequent variance requests will use the previous variance as justification for a change from the neighborhood zoning. Add to this the economic pressures which have the developer trying to maximize the amount of house that they can fit onto a specific property and you have incentives to apply for additional variances.

    In this environment, it is very helpful to have a “corporate” memory, that is, having people on the City staff who have extensive experience with the neighborhoods in question and knowledge of the building codes. Without that the planning and development staffs are operating in the dark. While that might not be a problem in District 1, it certainly is in Districts 2 & 3, and presumably District 4.

    To my knowledge, there are at least two houses in my neighborhood that have problems that merit attention. One was built under the DeKalb County regime that still remains vacant because it has several infringements onto other properties and into the public right of way. This house has stayed vacant for years because no bank will loan money on a property that cannot achieve clear title. The second house is currently under construction and appears to be being built under the principal of “It is easier to seek forgiveness rather than permission.”

    Zoning issues are inevitably contentious because property owners have the expectation that they should be able to build what they want. I have no argument with that, but I do oppose constructing things that affect my established property rights. The zoning is there for a reason and coming into Brookhaven I knew that the codes were enforced by DeKalb County. It is not quite so apparent with the City of Brookhaven.

    If you want to see what “No Zoning” looks like, take a close look at Houston, Texas. If you want to see what no construction codes look like, go out into rural Georgia, real far from town. In that environment, their attitude is that if you build something and it later falls down or catches fire, you are the only one who is hurt.

    Here in District 3, if the houses are built too close together, a fire in your house can also burn my house. Shoddy construction will later degrade into shambles; a dumpy house next door affects my investment. The zoning and building codes are there for a reason.

  13. 13

    Saul

    Adding to your comments, you’ll note that the areas impacted by city decision making has largely been in all areas of the city except for the north. True to promises made, they are intent on changing Brookhaven to Buckhead with exception of their portion of the city. Marie is their tool to accomplish this as you can see in the last development authority video. She has some deals cooking and your elected officials are excited by all of this. My north city neighbors seem OK with all of this, they don’t see it as a disruption to their neighborhoods. Just don’t make mention of ratty fences on Johnson Ferry. That makes them angry.

  14. 14

    Thomas Porter

    Amen.

  15. 15

    Bob Sorrentino

    Well said. The developers are netting north of $100 per sq foot constructed minus cost of lot. If they can squeeze an extra 500 sq ft in a home through a variance then that’s another $50k plus in their pocket. I’m not blaming them. I would try and make as much money on a job as I could. It’s up to the city to keep it in check.

    And about Houston… Some areas do have zoning and enforce it. I was in the city of West University (nicer small intown city) when a multi-million dollar house got built inside the street setback. City made them tear it down and rebuild.

  16. 16

    Riley

    And River Oaks Boulevard; the street with a country club at each end.

  17. 17

    City-Weary

    I don’t understand this trend of oversized houses being built 20 feet apart. I understand it from the developer’s angle (more house = more $) but I don’t get why buyers want that or are willing to pay over $800K for it.

    Odd that people are wanting more parks/green space throughout the city yet they aren’t willing to have much of a yard/green space on their own property. There’s no room for kids to play kickball or whiffle ball like we did when I was a kid 40 years ago on our R-100 sized lot.

    For 2 years my husband and I searched all over DeKalb (including Va Highlands, Briarcliff/LaVista, Emory etc) for a house that actually featured some privacy from neighbors and finally found it here in what became Brookhaven District 1. That’s the sole reason we bought here and now that privacy is being stripped away slowly. Very weird.

  18. 18

    D Harrison

    Come down to District 2 and 3. The new houses aren’t even 20′ apart. The new house on Elijay looks like you could walk down the middle and touch both sides.

  19. 19

    Toff

    I didnt understand either until I tried to sell my house with a large back yard. Young families dont want the space, they dont want the headache, maintenance or cost. They want to be inside with as much space as possible and greenspace close by.
    Very weird to you and me but it seems to be the way things are today.

  20. 20

    Thomas Porter

    Typically in R-75 zoning (most of Districts 2 & 3) they are 15′ apart (each side-yard being 7 1/2′) and commonly reduced by variance down to 11′-12′ separation or even less. In reality, I don’t know if that is sufficient to fight a fire between, and, to Riley’s comment definitely pose increased danger of fire spreading from house to house.

  21. 21

    enuff govt already

    Not a fan of more govt but if the current govt isnt listening then maybe there should be a City of Ashford Park or Drew Valley. A small city where the elected leaders will listen to the residents and life will be peachy? Sugar Hill. Mountian Park, Berkley Lake are all good examples for a small city carved out of D’s2,3&4. FWIW….Arent the plans for Drew Valley to be a valley between the skyscrapers of P’tree and Buford Hwy?

  22. 22

    Red

    Even Houston, with its reputation for uncontrolled sprawl, may have more backbone and principled leaders than Brookhaven has.

    The election is just shy of 7 months away. Is anyone able to step up to run for the the mayor and council seats up for election?

  23. 23

    Thomas Porter

    Not a fan of more government either, but all of the woes of Brookhaven could be one vote and one termination of contract away from getting on the right track… then again, and I repeat myself, we start from zero, AGAIN.

    This Community Development department; I still can’t figure out if it is the direction they believe we should be going, or, they are told we should be going. If the latter then it’s one more step.

  24. 24

    johnpastore361

    Tom, with all due respect, changing the faces —no matter how experienced or not—in Brookhaven’s governance will not change Brookhaven’s governance.

    As intended from its conception, Brookhaven’s governance is, no matter the labels of office, ‘corporatist’ (which, btw, is not government run by or for corporations). It’s form and procedures, no matter the cosmetics, are structured and conducted to obsessively augment and extend absolute hegemony (in this case not necessarily its own) no matter any type of government or political ideology espoused. To. even exist, much less perpetuate itself, it must either coopt or eliminate any and all impediment no matter the faces, no matter the original intent of those wearing the faces and no matter how formally or informally.

    There is no political or electoral solution. Only legal; and not obviously in its (or similar) courts.

    There are legal grounds. Better hurry. The more one waits, the more it entrenches itself.

  25. 25

    johnpastore361

    Let’s get real: Not one block in from Buford Hwy and, instead, one block in from P’tree,” I’ve had to observe a second (possibly third) instance of the take-over of property related to “FEMA, tough there has been no natural disaster or any flood plain issue.”

    First reported, but still ignored, immediately prior to the last election and the Buford Hwy Redevelopment Proposal.

  26. 26

    whodean

    Finally, a pearl of wisdom amongst the complaining. New residents may have different tastes. Some are just anti-change.

  27. 27

    Disgusted in Ashford Park

    Something is rotten in Denmark (Brookhaven). I would like to see some real scrutiny and disclosure of donations (legal and potentially illegal) to ALL candidates for office in our fair city- as it relates to Development and if necessary have it investigated at a higher level. Something just doesn’t seem right – There is to much destruction going on and too much silence from our elected representatives. I was one of the idiots that voted for the city and the Rotund One and I deeply regret it. First they came for district two , then three – they will eventually come for district four and one. Beware all that live in the city – our elected representatives have anything BUT your interests and quality of life in mind. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  28. 28

    Thomas Porter

    Most often, when things feel and seem weird, they are.

  29. 29

    Eddie E

    The CCDR’s (campaign contribution disclosure reports) should be on the State Ethics Commission website.

  30. 30

    Carrie

    Contributions are listed online. Instead of rumor and ignorant indignance why don’t you check on this supposed corruption by actually looking at the contributions and then report back what you find? ….Or just contniue being lazy.

  31. 31

    Thomas Porter

    Mayor: I totally agree, how DARE someone who is clearly unhappy with the “leadership” and suspect of events not believe that every untoward influence is listed online. Surprised you stopped at calling them only lazy & ignorant. Great restraint!

  32. 32

    Thomas Porter

    Mayor: I tried to make it a simple insurance claim through the City Attorney, it was denied without explanation. The City went typically silent then decided to fight a $1K auto claim with 2 attorneys (partner & associate), a multi-page response and a City employee. I’m just a layman filing pro se, yet I persevered in Court – easily.

    WHO WASTED CITY MONIES, ME OR THE CITY? How much did that cost & for what purpose? Add that to losing $1.5M!

  33. 33

    The Brookhaven Post

    Hi Folks. Let’s please get the comments back on topic. Thank you!

  34. 34

    John Pastore

    In this case dire.

  35. 35

    Saul

    Pssst! Thomas! Wait till CarrieMax finds out about the inspection of city hall by a nationally known litigious attorney perusing facilities not meeting ADA requirements. He makes a healthy living pursuing these kinds of violations and never loses!

  36. 36

    Carrie

    Carrie here- Wait, you backed into a tree and sued the city for damage to your vehicle?
    Was the tree like one of those angry, moving, talking trees in the wizard of Oz? Did it attack your car? I would understand why the city would deny such a ridiculous claim and go to court to defend itself from such an obviously frivolous lawsuit. Were you at the city that day to harass the community development department? Maybe Ms. Garrett ordered the tree to attack your car in retaliation.

  37. 37

    John

    After reading the above posts, I think it’s wise that I start attending the public meetings. If I don’t see a big turnout and hear vocal challenges and objections when allowed, then I’ll have to wonder if what I’m hearing here is nothing but hot air. What I’m reading here concerns me. Why isn’t there a strong move to make a change? Some of what I’m reading seems to be true. We just bought in District 1 and the home seems to be a well built home. However, some of the homes that we looked at North and South of Dresden concerned us. We viewed many houses and many of them weren’t built to the quality reflective of the price. I talked to a city inspector over a year ago who happened to be at one of the homes under construction. He told me what builders to avoid and specifically why to avoid them yet these same builders continue to build homes and are awarded Certificates of Occupancy. If I’m not mistaken, the building inspectors are contracted by the city, not employed. Does that make sense? Sort of goes along with what I’m reading above. Makes it really easy to pencil whip it and pass it on. I’m suspicious. Crummy built homes will look horrible within 10-15 years. That will hurt our city’s value and reputation. Small lots can accomodate well built homes. If small lots, no yard homes are what the new age family is looking for, then the city needs to restrict construction to only qualified builders who meet specific quality minimums in materials and finish. Maybe a building moratorium should be declared until a proper system is in place for quality control. I don’t understand such short sighted, poor governance unless something stinks. Is it only the unethical builders enjoying the rewards from such a scam? Any ethical, quality Brookhaven builders want to weigh in on this? My $.02.

  38. 38

    Mike Andyches

    Hi John. Welcome to Brookhaven. This should make you feel all better.

    https://brookhavenpost.co/brookhaven-leaders-discuss-high-cost-of-small-government/28499/

  39. 39

    Carrie

    John, funny how you went from ” some of this seems like hot air and I must go to meetings to see if this could be true” to ending with ” short sighted, poor governance, something stinks … such a scam.” You couldn’t even maintain your facade for a paragraph. But the real funny part was “we found a well built quality home in district 1 but only saw poorly built homes in the Dresden area ” Wow, for a “newcomer” you have really got the city hater narrative down pat. Seems like what you are looking for is more akin to a homeowners association. Government can’t dictate finish and as far as materials, after a certain point there is no government power to dictate that either. A very large portion of what you post..errr read here is uninformed hot air. In fact the letter to the editor above is filled with inaccuracies and baseless bias. If you are wondering why Mr. Porter didn’t print the rest of the ordinance he is saying the city is not enforcing it is for good reason. The ordinance allows for an unenclosed porch to be in the setback, not just a “stoop” as he would have you believe. I am told by a city council member that the house in question has an unenclosed or screened porch, meaning non- climate controlled, outdoor living. If you don’t agree with Mr. Porter’s learned interpretation of all things zoning and code , well something stinks and you must be corrupt. So funny that a few people actually believe Brookhaven’s community Dev. Dept. Is preventing poor quality homes from being built in district one but colluding with corrupt, poor quality builders in districts 2 and 3. So silly!

  40. 40

    Brookhaven Bob

    Carrie, are you paid by the city of Brookhaven?

  41. 41

    The Brookhaven Post

    Hello. Please keep comments on topic. Otherwise we will begin deleting them. Thank you.

  42. 42

    Susan

    I wonder if a city building inspector reviewed the parking lot and the tree location if he would have any comments about safety. Interesting you mention frivolous law suits, how many has Brookhaven engaged in to date? Pink Pony, Ashford Park citizen zoning and the rest? Think after the RCW’s cherry fest we might have a couple more?

  43. 43

    Thomas Porter

    Mayor: Once again, you’re so agitated by valid criticism that you bluster and lash out.

    Last night, the ZBA expressed great surprise that the front yard projections had been interpreted by Ben Song the way they are NOW, which is different than the way the City (including Ben Song) used to interpret, and, different than the historic DeKalb interpretation. Further, it is not a progressive interpretation, it is one that will destroy older (nice) neighborhoods and the setback averaging that has withstood withering court challenges.

    The City made a builder tear the front of his house off on Tomlinson Drive in Ashford Park, he’s the one who has a true lawsuit today because of this flip-flop by the City on how they interpret this ordinance.

    Get in touch with the city you profess to lead.

  44. 44

    Brookhaven Bob

    Carrie: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.

  45. 45

    John Pastore

    “If I don’t see a big turnout and hear vocal challenges and objections when allowed,”

    John, They are not allowed. Certainly not on the Mike Jabcobs’ two, back-to-back select citizens for Brookhaven committees, not the appointed interim government and not the resulting government of Brookhaven.

    “Welcome to ‘corporatist’ government” —a feature of which is to formally or informally subordinate otherwise independent groups, associations, unions, citizens committees etc.with any potential to oppose and even criticise the government, to the government by incorporating them into the government with such methods as, but not only, appointing at least their chairs to, from anywhere, officiate. Opposition groups can even be invented to co-opt real opposition.

  46. 46

    Carrie

    Susie,

    I don’t think the city has filed any lawsuits, but I could be wrong. It has certainly been sued and the writer of the article above sued the city and the property owner because he backed into a tree and wanted the city to pay him for his negligence. Backing into any fixed object is always the drivers fault. Mr. Porter knows that but he also knew the landlord would do a cost benefit analysis and decide it was cheaper to take a default and pay the frivolous claim filed by Brookhaven citizen and distinguished zoning expert Thomas Porter, AIA, LEED, AP, and now Esq.

  47. 47

    Sherry

    Carrie, are you also known by the name J. Max Davis?

  48. 48

    Susan

    Carrie, if Thomas won, there must be exceptions to your assertion. When Brookhaven leaders are negligent, or file silly law suits, who pays?

  49. 49

    Not The Mayor

    Is this real? It’s now “our” responsibile to guage quality instead of code? Is not the cities business to compare quality to sales price. Far from it. That is the buyers job. You are worried about your value, not the safety of the homeowner which is what inspections are for. If we all lived by these standards every house in the county would be over $1,000,000.

    The city is there to make sure the house is sound from a code standpoint. Obviously the houses are passing for CO because they reach the points required, many of which are state requirements

  50. 50

    Thomas Porter

    Mayor: I wasn’t going to respond to you again as it is off-topic, but then I realized it is on-topic:

    A parking space is defined by ordnance, it must be unobstructed, there was a limb projecting into the parking spot well above the ground (large & scarred from prior encounters with vehicles), the space was #4 or #5 from the City Hall entrance. EVERY SINGLE PERSON charged with Code Enforcement, Inspections, approval of Ordnances… and even running this City, had walked by it countless times… but did nothing. Predictably blithe! Negligence is on the City, not me.

    You say the landlord did a cost/benefit analysis – smart; the City didn’t – and it cost dearly for the over-the-top defense.

    Ultimate irony? Someone, landlord or City, rather than trim one limb… cut down the entire tree. This is the story of your Brookhaven in a microcosm: negligent, unconcerned, wasteful, and above all – cut down those trees!

  51. 51

    Not The Mayor

    Please explain where you for those numbers?!? Unless you are talking about Pulte or Ashton Woods you are no where close. Most of these guys are small and it costs about $135-150 a square ft just to build. Plus lot costs. No house in Brookhaven is selling complete for over 200 per. Most new nice average 185-190. Exaggeration helps no one.

  52. 52

    John Pastore

    Carrie, What are you doing? I have no doubt you must know the difference between a public servant subject to public scrutiny and a private citizen who is not. You are not only laying the groundwork for defaming a private citizen who dares challenge the city government, though well within his rights for a court to decide his case, but also the groundwork for both: punishing those who dare to challenge the city government and making the city government itself somehow immune to lawsuits. Why?

    Are you under some kind of extraordinary pressure to post what you do?

  53. 53

    John Pastore

    I had posted regarding “corporatist governance”: “Opposition groups can even be invented to co-opt real opposition.”

    Last but not least, so can governments be invented to achieve the ultimate goal: absolute dominion.

  54. 54

    Not the Mayor

    What does it say that a frequent contributor to the post goes around condesendingly calling people the names of our elected reps? For 2 months he called me mayor, despite the fact that my comments are mostly against the leadership. Now he’s on to Carrie. Then he follows that up with some more derogatory and classless comments.

    If you are going to be a commenter then have at it the childish antics to provoke.. However. if you are going to be a contributor you need to act like it and have some journalistic integrity.

  55. 55

    Thomas Porter

    Perhaps I was incorrect about your identity, certainly not 2 months worth, but I’m not wrong identifying the respondent above. Chalk it up to the difference between those who use their real name, and those who prefer to comment in anonymity.

    I share personal viewpoints, I’m not on The Post staff, I’m not running for any office, I write as a citizen.

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