The Connolly project is a well planned mixed –use project that currently meets both the letter and intent of the Brookhaven Comprehensive Master Plan and the Brookhaven Zoning Code. The current plan is the result of a remarkable 60+ meetings with community members and, after considerable time and expense, the Connolly development team has put forward a plan that responds to virtually all of the concerns expressed by the community. In fact, Connolly was prepared to accept an unheard of 28 of 29 conditions proposed by Brookhaven Planning Staff with their approval of Connolly’s proposal.
The density dogs were not satisfied with limiting the height of the buildings on Caldwell to three stories; nor were they satisfied with the project’s limited access drive on Caldwell; or the requirement for a retail component fronting Dresden; or a service court removed from Caldwell; or an overall density below that permitted by the existing zoning; their only concern was the approval of an arbitrary density number that has no basis in reality. A density number that halves the value the current owners of the property could potentially realize from the sale of their property. We have a long time owner of properties in the Connolly assemblage suffering from Alzheimer but, according to the density dogs, their family should be satisfied with only a fraction of the value they might realize from the property because the existing zoning density for the property is not acceptable to the opposition.
The ironic thing is that while the most vocal individuals in opposition to the Connolly development will speak of the detriments of increased density at every public forum available, they each benefit privately from a huge increase in density at their personal residence. The persistent writer of an opposition series in the Post lives in a development that was rezoned to a high density residential zoning in the early 90’s, allowing a developer to demolish 4 original Ashford Park homes and replace them with a development that increased the building density on the property by an astounding 425%. The voices of the opposition at the Planning Commission meeting also benefit from an increased density on their properties when a developer demolished the original homes and increased the building density on the lot by 380% and 146% respectively.
You can be sure the density dogs will not reduce the value of their homes by a bedroom or two because the density increase, ranging from 150% to over 400%, they enjoy is not consistent with the neighborhoods but they have no problem asking the family of an Alzheimer patient and all other long-term owners of the Connolly tract to accept a reduced density that equates to a valuation of 50¢ on the dollar for their property.
So with all this talk of density, I’m sure you’re wondering when the MARTA bus comes into the picture. That’s an easy one, if you step back from the pin hole and look beyond the density discussion to acknowledge the fact there are 2.21 acres of PC-2 zoned property within the Connolly assemblage. If the Connolly development goes away, the 28 condition proposed by the Brookhaven Planning Staff also go away. The height restrictions, retail requirement, rear entry drive limitations, loading dock location, open space parks and 22 other restrictions for what can be built on the property become a thing of the past but the 2.21 acres of PC-2 property remain.
Why is this an issue? With the recent misdirected vote by Brookhaven Council to impose a moratorium on zoning applications, the 2.21 acres of PC-2 property in the Connolly assemblage become the only high density residential tract in Brookhaven for at least the next 9-12 months. If the Connolly project is denied, the moratorium virtually guarantees the 2.21 aces of PC-2 property will be snapped up by a merchant apartment builder who will trade quality for yield while building to the full density of 60 units per acre permitted by the existing zoning. The 2.21 acres of PC-2 in the Connolly assemblage will become 133 low quality apartments with absolutely no requirement for any of the 28 conditions accepted by Connolly for their development.
This 133 unit apartment project will go straight to permitting without any input from the public. The property must be reviewed and approved by City of Brookhaven staff, without conditions, if it meets the requirements of the Brookhaven Zoning and Development Code.
Those viewing the world thru the pin hole of a density lens must realize their world will be much worse if continued opposition to the well planned compromise that is the Connolly development is successful. Otherwise, I am afraid we will all feel the bus hit us when a merchant apartment builder begins construction of their 133 quality challenged units on the 2.21 acres of PC-2 property contained within the Connolly development.
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