Chamblee, GA, November 16, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Back in July, Chamblee City Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve an application filed by Wakefield Beasley & Associates to construct a large 289 apartment unit mixed-use Transit Oriented Development (TOD) called Chamblee-Atlanta on the current 3.86 acre Hickman Nissan site located at 5211 Peachtree Boulevard. The application bounced back and forth between the City Council and the Architectural Review Board (ARB) before it got an eventual “thumbs up” this summer.
But after all that, Wakefield Beasley & Associates filed a request in September for a “Major Modification” to their previously approved plan. On Tuesday, November 15th, Councilmembers voted 3-2 to deny that request – contrary to the City’s Community Development Staff and ARB recommendations for approval.
In a nutshell, Wakefield Beasley was trying to avoid having a number of their planned ground floor units facing a retaining wall. In order to accomplish this, the modified plan involved shifting parking and moving units. But in doing so, Wakefield Beasley’s new “Major Modification” plan also increased the building height facing at Peachtree Blvd. and Malone Dr. from 4-stories of residential over 1-story of retail to 5-stories of residential over 1-story of retail (73 ft. to 83 ft.), increased the apartment unit density from 289 units to 311 and also increased projected traffic volumes.
A vote on a motion to approve the application made by Councilmember Leslie Robson and seconded by Councilman John Mesa failed (2-3). A motion by Councilman Darron Kusman to deny the application was offered and seconded by Councilmember Tom Hogan. That motion passed by a 3-2 majority.
Because Mayor Eric Clarkson, who is employed by Wakefield Beasley had recused himself, Councilman Brian Mock and Mayor Pro-Tem provided the tie breaking votes on both motions.
“I think the proposed change of that building looks over burdensome,” said Councilman Kusman. “I understand the need to reduce that retaining wall and to move the units to the top of the building, but I think it could have been done more eloquently with less impact at the street level and make it look less overbearing, less cumbersome. I don’t think it is in line with what we have on Peachtree there, or on Malone.”
After the Chamblee Atlanta project site plan was approved in July by Council, an $11 million tax abatement was awarded by the City’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). That abatement was contingent on the Council approving a “workable development plan.”
The current taxes paid to the City, County and the DeKalb County School system will continue to be collected at their current levels, according to the DDA. The current tax revenue paid on the site is approximately $140,000 per year ($20,000 to Chamblee, $45,000 to DeKalb County, and $74,000 to DeKalb County Schools). Those taxes will be locked in at those rates and won’t increase until the abatement period ends. In addition, the DDA will charge an administrative fee equal to 20% of abated taxes per year, which will eventually be used to fund other CDDA specific endeavors.
The abatement amounts to $11 million of the taxes the new development and the improvements it will bring in over a maximum period of 18-years. Should the $11 million abatement pay for itself sooner than 18-years, the abatement period would end then, respectively. The abatement deal will be implemented using a bonds-for-title transaction.
Whether Wakefield Beasley will come back with another modified plan Councilmembers can get on board with is uncertain as of the time of this story.