Brookhaven, GA, September 6, 2016 – Commentary, by Karen Dernavich – MARTA will be redeveloped; it is what growing Cities do. We have all seen it coming for some time and in many cases, it is welcome. Yet so many people have this sinking feeling. What will our City be like in eight years? Which development will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? How do we protect Brookhaven’s other main roads, like Peachtree, Clairmont, and Buford Hwy, from any unintended bad precedents?
I believe the concerns are solidly based in our collective redevelopment experiences and our fear of how they typically impact the future. On the surface, MARTA’s application, after a great deal of community participation, appears within their property rights and probably in line with what folks were hoping would be the result of their efforts. It is upon further review that the Citizens find many details are still very much up in the air.
A few examples of details people are worried about, beyond those already addressed by the Staff conditions as listed on pages 27-30 in the September 7th Agenda Packet, are:
MARTA is asking for a SLUP so the building height on the front of Peachtree can be 125 feet high rather than 100. There is no building design plan attached to this. What if we just get another monolithic box? If we allow this extra height for MARTA will we now see 8-9 story buildings up and down Peachtree, Buford Hwy, and Clairmont?
How will MARTA mitigate noise pollution from the rooftop bar for neighboring residents?
How will parking decks look during and after construction? This phased project is estimated to last six years.
What about the workforce housing ownership component? It is mentioned, but there is no clarity that it will actually ever occur due to being one of the last phases of the project. As we talk about the need for diversity in housing options for Brookhaven, this is essential to our Overlay.
The Citizens do not see any sense in granting rezoning until after they have assurance that ALL of the details are attended to. This is due to previous experiences with other developers. For example, at Town Brookhaven where development pictures and plans did not look the same as reality. Once the rezoning was granted there was no incentive for the Developers to work with the Citizens. Instead they employed zoning attorneys to creatively push through variances and most verbal promises to Citizens were broken.
On the flip side, the MARTA Developers see the rezoning approval as the first step that has to happen before any more money is invested in figuring out the details. While the concerns Citizens have are “details” to the Developers, they are the very details that will affect everyday lives after the developers are long gone…hence the often attached emotion around them. The “gotcha” here is that there truly are some things that the Developers may not be able to figure out until they get into the project (think about your last remodeling project), so how do we account for this and protect our City?
The City Staff gave us a great start with their recommended conditions (Thank you!), but we still have nothing to address the major concern of being dropped like yesterday’s news once the rezoning is granted. Many of us have discussed this and believe the answer lies in putting conditions around as many of the “up in the air” details as possible AND for the City keep the CRB (Citizen Review Board) intact and involved throughout the duration of the MARTA redevelopment. This extra measure will be the conduit through which we can best protect our City during this remodeling project.
I urge the Planning Commission to oppose the MARTA rezoning application UNLESS they accept all staff conditions and the additional conditions to cover off on these “up in the air” details- the majority of which have been discussed with MARTA in face to face meetings as recently as August 29th. There have been some Citizens working together documenting these and they should be getting them to you later today.
I urge the Citizens to write the Planning Commission <PlanningCommission@brookhavenga.gov> prior to Wednesday’s meeting requesting the same AND to attend the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 7th) evening at 7PM at City Hall and fill out a comment card to the same effect. The train is about the leave the station, please let your voice be heard!
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