Brookhaven, GA, February 15, 2016 – Commentary by Chad Boles, Brookhaven Resident – MARTA has a ridership problem. They want to give us a high density problem. MARTA isn’t capitalizing on a very valuable land asset. MARTA leadership claims less than half of their parking spaces are utilized. They have at least 3 options for the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe Station. We have fewer.
MARTA’s first option is to develop within the existing zone parameters suggested in the 2006 Liveable Cities Initiative Study. It outlines a walkable, liveable Brookhaven negotiated between DeKalb County, The Atlanta Regional Commission and a mosaic of our resident thought leaders. Current zoning allows for 150,000- 200,000 square feet of commercial, 40,000 square feet of retail and 250-300 residential apts/condos/loft style units. The LCI study itemizes over $4M dollars of traffic and streetscape enhancements. More will be needed to support the increased load on the surrounding neighborhoods. Surprisingly, it includes no cost for sewer or storm water infrastructure. The Brookhaven MARTA portion of the Overlay District can be found on Pg 49-60 of the LCI Study in this hyperlink.
MARTA’s second option is to sell the property to a developer. Often, large companies with unstable balance sheets divest of undervalued capital assets to focus on core competencies. MARTA’s core competency would seem to be transportation, not real estate development. Riders are yearning for MARTA to make Brookhaven Station better. Sell portions of the back parking lot. Be cash flow positive on day one. Increase ridership. Unshackle the developer from unprofitable, ideological housing initiatives already provided on Buford Highway. Eliminate MARTA unfunded liabilities renters won’t pay when more attractive options exist 2 blocks away.
MARTA’s third option, and the rail they currently travel, is asking our City Council for the higher density zoning classification of Pedestrian Community 2(PC2). PC2 would allow MARTA to double the amount of construction currently zoned. This is what we can expect from MARTA’s rezoning request:
- MARTA has yet to receive any indemnification of sewer liability from DeKalb County;
- Will only increase City of Brookhaven tax revenue by $125K (less than ½% of our budget and less than Option 2);
- 2 year old charette drawings include a storm water retention pond within a stream/transitional buffer;
- MARTA has generated no storm sewer impact studies, but are required by DeKalb County;
- Will create 1,000 new resident cars and at least 10,000 new daily trips;
- Realigns Apple Valley Road directly onto Standard Drive costing at least $4.7M (Roswell Road/Windsor Parkway realignment.)
- Will introduce 50-100 new kids into the area school system.
- 300 new dog walkers looking for additional ‘green space’ not provided on the site.
Storm and Sewer construction is borne on the wallets of the developer, but happen in the backyards of Brookhaven Fields and Drew Valley. Traffic in BH, BF, AP and Historic Brookhaven will mimic Buckhead… in the hot…summer…sun. Commuter traffic will avoid Brookhaven MARTA like water flowing around a mid-stream boulder. Windsor Parkway will become a crossroad of cut-through traffic to Ashford and/or Peachtree Dunwoody.
Bond tombstones funding infrastructure fade on chalkboards as MARTA pushes for increased density. MARTA is asking us to approve rezoning now; work out the details later. City of Brookhaven staff, the all-volunteer Planning Commission and the ZBA, have noted infrastructure is not within their jurisdiction, or purview. Fair enough. Our city leaders have broad latitude to demand rigorous process and financial transparency with such large dimensions. We should rally our elected neighbors with support. There is no economic burden or hardship on MARTA caused by the existing zoning ordinance.
Email your district representative and mayor. Ask them to deny any rezoning request by MARTA until final engineering documents have been stamped, DeKalb County certification letters have been issued, MARTA’s funding portion, and ours, have been appropriated via the ballot box. And fundamentally change the entire process…in the process.