Brookhaven, GA, May 2, 2016 – Commentary, by Karen Dernavich – We all know Dresden has been and will continue to be redeveloped. That is a done deal and should be a good deal for Brookhaven. There are a lot of rezoning requests right now and it seems every day there are new meetings to attend in order to stay on top of it. In the end, to the average resident like myself, it feels like we are all behind the eight ball and it is a foregone conclusion that the neighborhood we love is embarking on its swift decline. I submit to you however, that redevelopment doesn’t have to be detrimental to OUR neighborhood. There is a better way.
It is important to first understand that we have zoning laws in place to protect the character of our neighborhoods. These designations, while not perfect, are the first line of defense for a neighborhood. Therefore, it is very important that we do not allow these designations to be hastily changed. Once a zoning designation has been changed there are very few cases where neighbors are able to have them overturned regardless of how clearly detrimental they are to the surrounding area. These changes can also set a precedent that allow future requests to succeed rather than be evaluated on their own merit.
Second, we have a Zoning Board, Planning Commission and City Council in place who are responsible for upholding the zoning law and they work for us the residents, NOT the developers. Requests for rezoning are just that: requests. The City is not obligated to grant their request if the current zoning law does not deprive the owner of reasonable economic use. They are only required to hear the case and then make a ruling. The City is representing the people, but if we the people do not make clear what we want, it is far too easy for them to see themselves as power brokers in this lucrative and fun game of real estate development.
Third, we have neighbors that are passionate about the character and long-term success of our neighborhood. These neighbors will stand up and be heard; provided they are informed with both facts and options. These neighbors will hold the appointed and elected individuals accountable for upholding our zoning laws and listening to those they were appointed and elected to represent.
The vision for Dresden that continues to be brought before the City by developers have several things in common:
They are all requesting rezoning – Evening though the majority of the current designations allow for smart development and do not deprive the owner of reasonable economic use, the developers are pushing for it to be changed to maximize immediate profit – typically through higher density. They do not believe they should have to conform to the existing zoning laws regardless of the impact on the neighborhood.
Their plans do not conform to the vernacular of our neighborhood – They are all high on renter population; high in physical height; high on impervious surfaces; high on density.
Their plans assume the “it” factor that our area holds right now is a permanent position, thus giving way to their “Apartment Corridor” concepts.
All proposals are acting as though they are the only development that will happen in that area, ignoring the inevitable MARTA redevelopment and other initiatives along both Peachtree and Dresden.
Again, I submit to you that there is a better way. Smart, creative, and thoughtful development can be accomplished under the current zoning laws. Residents will get behind this kind of development and work with developers to reach a win/win solution and actually support smaller changes and/or variances to accomplish the vision for the development. Taking into consideration the long term vision of what Dresden will look like when the “it” factor fades is crucial to success of our neighborhood. “Apartment Corridor”-based communities do not have a track record of success over the long haul. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
I have some more thoughts on how we get on the same page with a common vision… coming soon…
–Karen Dernavich, Brookhaven Resident
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