Brookhaven, GA, September 14, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Brookhaven Councilmembers decided Tuesday evening to hold off awarding a $136,500 contract to consultant Sycamore Consulting and TSW, a Planning and Architectural firm, to review the Brookhaven Peachtree-Overlay District. The two-week deferral came after Councilmember Bates Mattison requested time for community members to vet TSW and determine whether they are uniquely qualified to take on the task.
“The root of the problem is there is a disconnect between what the Overlay says and what the community wants,” Mattison told The Post. “That’s a big conversation. Something of this significance and importance, you don’t want to rush.”
Community Development Director Ben Song said the reason the Staff has recommended TSW is because of their experience working with overlay districts and work on zoning issues with the City of Atlanta, Roswell and Decatur.
Mattison, who presides over Brookhaven’s District 3 the Overlay covers portions of, said he was not comfortable moving forward without input from the Brookhaven Peachtree Community Alliance (BPCA) and other community members who worked with DeKalb County more than 10 years ago to perform a Livable Community Initiative Study (LCI). That LCI study led to the creation of the Overlay.
Sycamore Consulting is the firm the City selected to conduct a study of the character areas included in Brookhaven’s 2034 Comprehensive Plan. Song said it made sense to the Staff to use Sycamore as part of the Overlay review since they are already engaged in the City.
City Manager Christian Sigman and City Attorney Chris Balch cautioned the Council too much community involvement in the hiring process could lead to “chaos”.
But Mattison says if the community input results in TSW and Sycamore being found not qualified to take on the Overlay review task, he would like the City to go through an RFQ process to find a specialized nationally recognized firm, a process that can take months to complete.
Mattison told The Post his intent for asking for the two-week pause is to be sure the community has a chance to weigh in on the vendor selection and to make as certain as possible the review will accomplish the intended goals.
According to Mattison, there will be no formal vendor vetting meetings, however, anyone who has input on the topic is asked to contact the City Council by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One point for selecting a vendor quickly was to ensure the Overlay review was completed during the Zoning Moratorium that will expire in February 2017. With Tuesday’s delay, that is likely out of the question.
The City Council is expected to consider the Overlay District review contract award again during their September 27th meeting.