Brookhaven, GA, August 17, 2016 – Commentary, by Karen Dernavich – The proposed development on Dresden Drive to add nearly 200 apartments, 70% of which would be one-bedroom and all the luxury you can cram into 700 square feet, will be determined next Tuesday night by City Council. How they vote should concern every Brookhaven citizen. Their decision will determine the future of all redevelopment on Dresden Dr., Apple Valley Rd., and the surrounding neighborhoods.
How should they decide? Who should they listen to?
Do you want City Council’s decision based on “gut feel?” Do you think they should decide based on special interests? Or should they decide based on the law/standards/intent of Brookhaven zoning code?
Many of us believe that “gut-based” decisions and pandering to concentrated and monied interests have no place in this process. And, the community is counting on the City to follow the data and the established procedure to uphold the law. What will we get if they do? Smart development.
So many people and interests angling for the ears of our government. You might be wondering: who is saying what? Let’s review:
- The Applicant is asking for approval of a project that has no diversity in housing options (It is strictly apartments and retail), and they are asking for a density of 56 units per acre. That’s an important number to remember: the applicant claims the economics just won’t work for anything less than this density.
- Supporters of the Developer, have argued for approval of their proposed plan as is. These supporters consist of another developer, an investor, a real estate friend, an office park neighbor, and one resident. Their broken-record refrain is that we must approve this application or good developers will never want to build in Brookhaven. Turn a developer away from one of the hottest areas in Atlanta and no one else will come calling: Brookhaven will be stuck with inferior development. One Developer supporter has gone as far as to ask for an open records request following the Planning Commission meetings, apparently because he couldn’t believe ordinary citizens could put together such a compelling case against the proposal and in favor of lower density.
- The City Development Department (a.k.a. The City Staff) says to approve the application with conditions and hold the density to 45 units per acre. A number they feel is a fair compromise.
- The Planning Commission voted 5-1 for denial based on the fact that the applicant said they wished to push forward for the 56 units per acre as they claimed had not had time to assess the City Staff’s recommendation of 45 units per acre.
- Citizens of Brookhaven, some 780 strong, have petitioned the City for two months to base the decision on the existing density along Dresden Drive, the zoning code, the Overlay, and the Brookhaven Comprehensive Plan. Using every single one of those approaches creates a clear case that density per acre should be 30 units per acre. 30 units per acre also allows the applicant to solve other neighborhood concerns like transition/height and including an ownership component.
The City of Brookhaven is tasked with making tough decisions that foster smart development. That starts with listening to the community and ends with having the courage, vision, and leadership to set a sustainable course that strikes a balance between growth and protecting the citizens. Leadership may never be easy, but the benefit to the City will be long-lived.
Brookhaven citizens have made a reasoned argument, derived from spending countless hours buried in zoning code and Comprehensive Plans. That argument has come to one clear conclusion: the proposal before City Council is too much and doesn’t fit on Dresden Drive at the proposed 56 units per acre or the City Staff’s hedged bet of 45 units per acre. Moving forward with either of these recommendations will permanently shift the highest point of density away from the (yet to be finalized) MARTA TOD and stick it on a congested two lane road (Dresden). The City should take a stand and keep density at 30. Thirty units per acre is not only consistent with the average density along Dresden Drive but also justified by the underlying zoning on the properties considered for development.
By not making exceptions, and holding the density to 30 units per acre, the City will strike the balance that Dresden Drive needs now and act as the guiding light for all the future development that will surely be coming next.
If you believe as we do, you have to take action. Email your City Council representative right now. Their email addresses are:
- Linley Jones District 1: email@example.com
- John Park District 2: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bates Mattison District 3: email@example.com
- Joe Gebbia District 4: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email Mayor John Ernst: email@example.com
After all, a key issue of the Mayor’s platform was to “improve zoning decisions through citizen input,” an issue he took on upon “hearing that there is angst about the future of Brookhaven as higher density developments encroach on our lives.” In the case of this high density proposal on Dresden Drive, the Citizens have provided input ad nauseam. When is enough enough?
Share this post over email and through every social network you can. If you haven’t yet, sign the Petition for Smart Development Read/Sign (it’s still open!).
And finally, show up on August 23 — that’s next week — at City Hall. Bring your kids. Wear red. Remind our City who they are working for: the Citizens of Brookhaven.