1. 1

    Thomas Porter

    I stand in appreciation of the Planning Commission for receiving the message, Community Development for their analysis and recommendation, but I stand in AWE of my neighbors and especially those that worked so hard to make their points heard clearly!

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    Bob Sorrentino

    Completely agree. Everyone on the Planning Commission had very good questions and Stan did a great job running the meeting in an efficient and balance manner. The community involvement by all the neighbors was nothing short of inspiring.

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    At last, sanity prevails, so far.

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    A Serious Question

    A serious and very genuine question for all against this development…what would you consider “smart development” for that site? The parcels in question sit at a very valuable and attractive intersection of Dresden Dr. and represent a great opportunity for future growth in our community. If not this proposed mixed-use, then what? What type of development could meet the task of both pleasing the residents of Brookhaven while, at the same time, providing the land owner with fair market value?

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    I agree 100% – there is some serious brainpower across the entire breadth of the Planning Commission, and I thought Stan, Bert Levy and John Funny in particular asked some pointed questions that demonstrated great command of both the Comprehensive Plan and the area where Terwilliger is trying to put this complex.

    And I echo the gratitude to the CDD for their thoughtful denial recommendation. T-P tried to argue that CDD did not have the most updated plans – yet they waited until after the June 23 deadline for the public to respond to their amended application to make minor cosmetic changes – none of which materially addressed CDD’s underlying concerns related to the size and scope of this project right on top of single family homes.

    I think Mr. Funny said it best (I’m paraphrasing): “if your plans require putting plants on the rear balconies to shield it from the homes behind it, it might be too big.”

    Last night, for the first time, I saw the upside of Brookhaven cityhood in a way I’d never seen before.

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    that is a thoughtful and reasonable presentation. bravo!

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    Bob Sorrentino

    I can’t speak for everyone but the most common possibilities I’ve heard would be developments like Kaleidoscope’s mixed use or Haven’s. The other possibility would be town homes like the 28 that were just approved for Dresden/Apple Valley (which was obviously economically viable for those 1.6 acres). The 60 unit/acre they are asking for is just absurd for a two lane road. Even MARTA is asking for a good bit less and they have Peachtree and a transit site to absorb the density.

  8. 8


    At the hearing last night, the presentation included standards established by a survey of other land use studies by the Urban Land Institute, which espouses “compact development” as a viable basis to reduce automobile dependency and greenhouse gas emissions:

    Multiple studies identify the average ideal for “compact development” density to be 11-15 units/acre – and accomplishing that kind of density with things exactly like overlay districts. This dovetails with every parcel w/in the BPOD surrounding this development – in the CDD planning packet, they noted that the densities of the surrounding commercial development ranged from 7-12 units/acre.

    All of those other developments have made this work by putting commercial frontage directly on Dresden, and buffering adjoining single family homes north and south of Dresden from that frontage with townhome development behind that (to the south of Dresden), or two level uncovered parking decks (to the north of Dresden).

    What has everyone up in arms is that the T-P project wants PC-2 re-zoning – which provides for a density of 60 units/acre – 4-6 times the recommended average for “compact development,” and a density more appropriate to a fully urban high rise environment. The size of structure needed to accommodate this kind of density would occupy nearly one-third of the block on which the property sits, without buffering the homes behind it.

    On that same block, the Woodley Center to the west gives a great example of how to do this: dental/medical offices fronting Dresden, Town Estates w/ 12 two-story townhomes behind, then the single family homes along Canoochee. Density is 12 units/acre, single family homes are buffered from the comparatively taller office buildings fronting Dresden.

    p.s. there is no obligation on the part of an adjoining homeowner to provide the land owner with fair market value; they have to establish that there is no reasonable economic use for the property as it is zoned now, AND that re-zoning does not compromise the public interest – which includes intrusions to adjoining residential neighborhoods.

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    A good start, now if we could only get this decision for the MARTA TOD

  10. 10

    Justin Owings

    This is a good question and there are some good answers below.

    I want to make a few points though:

    1 – Fair Market Value is dependent on what the land is zoned for (1) and (2) what it’s acceptable to be used for relative to the adjacent community. This latter point is incredibly important and often overlooked. Existing neighbors have property rights, too, and those rights aren’t black and white, as much as it would be easier for everyone if they were. The right to a reasonable expectation of safety on your street from drivers, the right to not have major light pollution from nearby development, noise, sunlight, access, etc.

    There’s a concept in economics known as the tragedy of the commons, which might be summed as saying that when public goods exist, they will be exploited if they aren’t protected. There are hundreds of households who are already making use of common/public goods like roads, open spaces, stormwater, walkability/safety, etc. — these households would be heavily and negatively impacted by a development like that proposed by T-P. Why? Because those hard to pin down rights are assets that would suddenly be shared by a much larger number of people.

    As a quick numbers exercise, think about this. We’re talking about roughly 2 acres of land @ 60 units/acre. 120ish units — imagine that each is occupied by 1.5 people — that’s 180 people. On the same amount of land in the neighborhood, assuming nearby lots are roughly a third of an acre, each, you’re talking about 6 single family homes. If 4 people live in each of those homes on average, that’s 24 people.

    This brings me to my point: 24 people’s rights are now being diluted to some extent — and it’s impossible to quantify this precisely — by 180 apartment dwellers. While most of us aren’t articulating or quantifying this dilution in these kinds of numbers, our guts tell us , “something doesn’t add up here.”

    So anyway, fair market value of these properties must be considered in the context of what that land gives the developer the rights to do — and at what cost to the existing, nearby community.

    2 – We can’t limit these discussions to thinking of things like “okay well if 120 apartments + retail don’t work, what does?” With typical answers being “nothing would work to satisfy the community” or “we [the developer] are good. We listen to the community. We make compromises — you better hope if we get denied the next guy is as good as us because guess what, they probably won’t be!” Premium locations plus selective neighbors will drive a higher end product and more value for the neighborhood — just as much as you don’t usually marry the first girl you meet or buy the first house you see. Be selective.

    3 – Which leads me to the point that there are almost certainly others waiting in the wings, ready to make a move at a reasonable price with a plan that is more in line with what makes sense for the community.

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    A Serious Question

    bldvl89 — Thanks for responding. Very thoughtful and the ULI study was actually a pretty interesting read. I have to contest that the report doesn’t list the “ideal” density for this type of development at between 11 – 15 units/acre (page 9) but merely states that the three studies defined it as such “for the purposes of modeling”. I’m sure more research would need to be done to get to a real, ideal state, especially considering their conclusions for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions maxed out at a density of >12.5 units per acre (again, not sure where or if this would level off at a unit/acre figure of, say, 30). That is all to say that the studies weren’t necessarily done to help us better understand ideal density in so much as they were done to help better understand the effects of greater density on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions/vehicle miles traveled.

    I agree that the Woodley Center is a good comparison, in concept. My only challenge comes when thinking of how it ties into the overall mixed-use feel of the Dresden corridor. It just serves such a limited purpose, with the exception being those that work there or are customers/patients. Can the restaurant/retail crowd use that lot as parking for the shops across the street? I’m assuming not (maybe I’m wrong/I hope I am) which makes it hard to believe that it really ties into the community in a measurable way. I’d rather an apartment development with a ground-level retail component that provides additional general-use parking spaces. That’s not to say I’d just approve any such development. I agree that smart development is needed and this proposal may not have gone far enough in meeting that requirement.

    My only other issues with the studies are their reliance on walkability, bikeability and public transportation when reaching their final conclusions. All seem critical to the desired outcomes but none are very well integrated here as of yet.

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    ASQ –

    T-P’s one bonus offered to the adjoining neighborhood last night was 44 free parking spaces to the public within the interior of their building. I suppose the one benefit to the surrounding homes is to reduce street parking that exists now – though that single consequence, irritating as it may be, wasn’t at the top of the list of consequences that drove opposition to this project.

    I also agree 11-15 units/acre is not some magical figure set in stone, but as you pointed out, is simply the average density multiple urban land use studies thought appropriate for modeling “compact development.” The sentence after that notes, however, that “{t]here are many ways to build to this average density.” That implies to me that the ULI views 11-15 units/acre as an ideal average. It struck me as an excellent baseline with which to examine what T-P is planning, and what exists all around the site.

    Certainly there is a push to establish a “mixed use” feel to the Dresden corridor that already exists now w/ the Woodley Center, Village Place Brookhaven (across the street) and Village Park Place (Haven). Each of those properties buffers single family homes that sit behind them (in the case of VPP, with townhomes, and in the case of VPB with an uncovered two level parking deck). But in no event should that push require single family homes adjoining the corridor to have to tolerate a disproportionate share of the physical consequences associated with proximity to a structure large enough to accommodate 60 unit/acre density (such as bringing 314 new cars to a 6.62 acre block, whose backside is an existing neighborhood). If anything, we, as a City, have to be even MORE CAREFUL about what we allow onto sites that share space/blocks with existing single family homes.

    Page 10 of the planning packet identified the density of every single development within the BPOD surrounding the proposed site – and aside from falling within the ULI average described above, every one of those developments provide a model of economic viability for the property. That’s the “smart growth” that everyone was talking about – and why, in part, the Planning Commission had little trouble in unanimously denying the rezoning request.

    Maybe the next developer focuses more on walkability or bikeability – but even if T-P’s greenspace plan were to include say, a walkway around their building, that would be functionally useless to the adjoining neighborhood. There’s already a bike lane along Dresden in front of the property, so I’m not sure what T-P or anyone else could ever do to make their project more “bikeable.”

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    You make some good points, Justin.

    It hasn’t been long ago that a regular at the White House in Buckhead was telling me about all the grand old homes on Peachtree, West Peachtree, and other downtown Atlanta streets. He also detailed interesting information about the grand homes along Peachtree just south of Brookhaven and a story about an old mansion across from Kroger. I could swear that old man was the one that nailed that buck head outside of Irby’s store. My point is what is now changes and sometimes is redeveloped multiple times, for example, Peachtree Road from Five Points to Brookwood Station. Highest and best use comes into play and there are several properties in the Buckhead area that have made that transition over the past twenty or less years be they residential or commercial. The value and use designation of land doesn’t change overnight, but demand can accelerate it.

    I am very happy that affected neighbors turned out to voice their concern for this development, but that is some very valuable land. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the current developer holds on to the land, pleads hardship regarding tax valuation yearly, and in five years comes back and gets everything he wants per his original drawings and possibly more. Unfortunately, the Genie is out of the Brookhaven bottle.

    I would love to be mistaken, but just look at how things are transitioning south of us and north of us. A little too late to stop it.

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    I am impressed with my neighbors! I have been working to make sure that everyone has a voice in the future of our city but that does not come without participation. If the outcome had been that no one minded the development and had spoken with the same planning and effort for it I would have been just as impressed. We are all not going to agree on everything but what we can agree on is that people who have moved in to the area and have invested time and money should have a voice in the process. We saw that last night, are there some that were fine with the development and liked it? I am sure there are but they didn’t prepare or speak to it. Were there some that think nothing should be built at all? Yes I am sure there are those too. What is it that drove the effort to put so much time and work in to preparing and presenting an opposition to the application? There were many reasons, not a simple “no apartments” or “too dense” or “traffic” as many would have you believe. Our neighbors who make up our community looked at the option as a whole and responded to the various and many reasons that it just is not the right solution. Does that mean that it won’t be built? We will have to see. Does it mean that TP can’t keep trying to get to something that will fit? I would think they will. Does it man that this is defeated and we get something worse from people that won’t work with us? I guess it could, but as last night showed… not with out a good fight. Will our fairy godmother appear and put the perfect solution for everyone there overnight… well we all know the answer to that.
    I told someone last night that while I am really impressed with my neighbors and happy for the nearby neighbors who would be the most impacted, the best part of this whole thing has been that I now know many neighbors that I didn’t. I now feel even stronger about protecting the community that I love more and more everyday. If you haven’t participated, you should. Do you have to agree with everyone, absolutely not – some of the best conversations have been with my neighbors that I have a completely opposite view with, but we have conversations, we talk and sometimes we meet in the middle. I challenge all of you to get more involved, talk to your neighbors, go to the Character Study meetings and add your voice to the future vision, walk around your neighborhood and get to know your neighborhood, WeAreBrookhaven every last one of us.

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    Power to the People.

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    Right On!

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