Brookhaven, GA, August 19, 2016 – by Trey Benton – City of Brookhaven Councilmembers approved an Ordinance to impose a six-month Zoning Moratorium during a Special Called Meeting Friday. At the direction of Mayor John Ernst, and after considerable deliberation, Councilmembers directed City Attorney Chris Balch to combine aspects of several moratorium options into one final Ordinance document in the interest of clarity.
The moratorium Councilmembers approved “imposes a moratorium on the acceptance by the staff of the City of Brookhaven of any and all rezoning applications for a change to or from a single-family residential, two-and three-family residential, multi-family residential zoning classification, and PC-1, PC-2, PC-3, and OCR zoning districts, as described in the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Brookhaven, except as described in Section IV below.”
The exception reads, “This moratorium shall not apply to any zoning application, rezoning application or other application for a change in use in that area of Brookhaven that constitutes the Special Tax District within the City of Brookhaven, as described more particularly in Exhibit A attached hereto and incorporated within this Ordinance by reference.”
“Right now, Brookhaven has been labeled the fastest growing zip code in the Atlanta area,” Mayor Ernst said in a statement. “This moratorium will allow us to chart Brookhaven’s course to become the smartest growing zip code. I look forward to working with residents and staff over the next six months on our Character Area Study and Peachtree Corridor Overlay District and Zoning Ordinance rewrites to define this shift in our community.”
Ernst added that Councilmembers want to provide clarity and welcome developers “who share our vision of a City that is a model for the future of urban development.”
During Council deliberation, Councilmembers suggested Staff add the Overlay District to the Character Area Study. Councilman Bates Mattison said the majority of the contentious developments of late have been in the Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay district.
That is why, Mattison said, he and Mayor Ernst discussed prior to Friday’s meeting, getting the Overlay District added to the Character Area Study efforts. All Councilmembers agreed this was a good idea.
“We have to have some kind of task that’s actually accomplished,” said Mattison. “During this six-moth period, we will put out to bid an RFP for a study for the Overlay. By the time this moratorium is finished, it will have resulted in the completion of the study, the outreach to the community, and recommended changes to our Overlay codes so they can be embodied and codified into our Overlay document…so that we do have clarity to the development community about what they can move forward with in the Peachtree and Dresden Drive corridors.”
Mattison said he anticipates Councilmembers will discuss directing Staff to add the Overlay District to the Character Area Study during their Tuesday, August 23rd Council Meeting.
Councilmember Linley Jones said this moratorium substantively affects property owners rights, and that is a very serious matter and a very serious action the City is taking. “But,” she said, “Our citizens are seriously concerned about densification, in particular. And developers aren’t clear on what will be acceptable and we value our developers time, effort and expense. And so the result is that we have public outcry against certain developments, misdirected development efforts, withdrawn applications…I think that this moratorium will give a chance for us to bring clarity for the sake of everyone.”
Councilmembers said they realize it will be challenging to get the Overlay Character Area Study done in six-months, but agreed City Staff would be urged with making that happen. Community Development Director Ben Song agreed the timing would be tight and advised he did not see it being possible to have it fully completed in six months.
Brookhaven will therefore initiate a review and additional planning of the Overlay District and prepare for the upcoming Zoning Code rewrite. Song said the Zoning Code rewrite vendor is standing by.
Zoning Attorney Doug Dillard told Councilmembers he did not think it was necessary to do a 6-month moratorium to get to the heart of the issue. He said he has seen moratoriums come up before, but only in emergency situations. He suggested that since Councilmembers have been working on Zoning issues for some time, they already know what they want to see.
But residents who spoke to Council Friday said they were supportive of the measures the City was taking, and agreed the City needs to slow down the development train and get a handle on the situation.
“I think the idea of pausing and doing the right thing is a good thing, Drew Valley resident Lissie Stahlman said. “Things have been moving really fast.” She added that the heavy rains Brookhaven experienced on Thursday highlighted the stormwater issues the City has that must really be looked at before the City adds more of a burden on the system.
Councilmembers voted to approve the Moratorium unanimously. It will take effect immediately.
The full Moratorium Document can be found embedded below.
Note: The language in SECTION II. IMPOSITION OF MORATORIUM embedded below, Line “(a)” was amended by Councilmember Jones from: “except as described in Section IV below, as described in the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Brookhaven”, to its final language: “as described in the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Brookhaven, except as described in Section IV below”. This amendment was made and accepted by Council to provide additional clarity.