Brookhaven, GA, August 3, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Brookhaven’s Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday evening to recommend City Council deny an application filed by SSP Dresden, LLC., to construct a controversial mixed-use development on 3.437 acres along Dresden Drive, between Caldwell Road and Parkside Drive, called Dresden Village. Prior to the motion to deny, a motion to defer failed.
Developers CONNOLLY and Fairfield Residential are seeking to construct the project at 56.6 units per acre and 194 units. But after a Brookhaven Community Development Staff Report came out last week to approve the project with 29 conditions, including one to lower the density to 45 units, the developers said they could commit to accept all but one, the most controversial, the density condition.
When pressed by Commissioners, developer JR Connolly said he could not say for certain he and Fairfield could get down to the Community Development Staff condition of 45 units per acre. He said they have only known about the Staff recommended density reduction for a week and it will take them time to look at the project and see what they can do to meet it, if anything.
It was that very uncertainty that eventually tipped the scales among Commissioners to recommend denial.
Commissioner Stan Segal said had the applicant come in and asked for a 60 or 90 day deferral he would have supported that request. “But they didn’t,” he said.
Alpharetta resident and Brookhaven property owner Dan Woodley, who developed and built the existing Village Place told Commissioners, “This is a good plan. Better than the one that was originally proposed.” Woodley said the project he developed on Dresden was transformational. “We all did that together on Dresden Dr. with a developer that listened,” said Woodley. “You have another developer that is listening.”
Luke Massey from Cortez Way in Brookhaven Fields also spoke in favor. He said, “We have all been pleased and have all enjoyed what the current development provides our community. This new development will only add to that.” He said he has been very impressed with the developer in the way he has worked with the community.
Former District 2 City Councilman Jim Eyre said the Dresden Village project conforms to the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan. He said the density limits the City’s Staff placed on the development was an arbitrary limit and does nothing but establishes a politically correct number.
“This property will be developed,” said Eyre. “It is too attractive to sit vacant.” He said if the current proposal is denied “the concessions the developer had made will go away” and an apartment developer under the PC-2 zoning will develop the land, and the neighborhood will have no say in the final outcome of the project.
Speaking in opposition, Ashford Park resident Justin Owings told Commissioners the City Staff “really nailed it” on the majority of their recommendations. “The community needs to see a revised plan if the conditions are accepted and have time to consider it,” said Owings. He said, however, residents don’t think City Staff went far enough in their density reduction. He urged Commissioners need to consider whether the site is developed at 45 units per acre or 57 units per acre, it will bring an undesirable amount of congestion to the area.
Owing noted that by comparison, MARTA, after revising their development plan recently, is at only 31 units per acre. He said the intent of the Comprehensive Plan is to have the majority of the density at the MARTA station then step down to the neighborhoods. “This was the major flaw in the Terwilliger-Pappas project and is the major flaw in the Connolly project,” Owings added.
Brian Levy, also from Ashford Park explained 30 units per acre would be more appropriate for the community. He said projects with 45 units per acre should be on Peachtree Rd. “30 units per acre would go a long way to solve many of the issues,” he added.
Segal said he would support City Council sending the case back for a full cycle, returning to the Planning Commission once the developers figure out their density issue and have something meaningful to review.
City Council is scheduled to take up the application August 23.
An Audio-Cast of this case can be heard on our SoundCloud channel below.