Brookhaven, GA, November 27, 2016 – by Trey Benton – The City of Brookhaven is seeking proposals from qualified vendors to provide consulting services to develop a new Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay (Overlay) code as found in the City’s Zoning Ordinance. This new code will replace the existing Overlay code.
The Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay is a very sensitive topic, particularly among those who were involved in its initial creation more than 10 years ago, and is a product of work with DeKalb County to perform a Livable Community Initiative Study (LCI). That LCI study led to the creation of the Overlay District, now “ground zero” in terms new development activity since the City of Brookhaven was formed.
It’s also a sensitive topic to those who struggle to understand what the Overlay language actually says and how it is (and has been) interpreted as development proposals are submitted to the community and the City. Community members have asked for a reasonable, but specific plan on what land uses they can expect to see now and over time, with more predictability. Residents are anxious to “restore sanity” to the process so they are not continually in defense mode, often surprised by what is being proposed.
The City says the Overlay rewrite is a step that must be taken in order to provide land use clarity. The formulation of the new ordinance will go further than the current Overlay ordinance, because it will actually be a complete effort. The second “Phase” when creating today’s Overlay was never done because of a lack of funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission and DeKalb County – the granular parcel-by-parcel part.
Both residents and City Leaders say they are wanting the same thing – clarity, predictability and consistency – without all of the gray areas in the current Overlay code. And residents say because the Overlay is one of the City’s most important planning and land-use ordinances, it is illogical to continue having subjective interpretation applied to a code that was formulated out of an incomplete process in the first place.
In September, a proposed contract award was anticipated, however, Brookhaven Councilmembers decided instead of awarding a $136,500 contract to consultants Sycamore Consulting and TSW (Planning and Architectural firms) they will put the project out to bid – stating that it had nothing to do with Sycamore’s and TSW’s ability per se.
City Councilman Bates Mattison urged for the Council to slow down and go through the RFP process in the interest finding the most qualified vendor. “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.”
Deputy Director of Community Development, Patrice Ruffin, said the process of advertising for the proposals through the eventual award of the contract, is expected to take about three months. The amount of time to actually perform the work could take several months, thereafter.
According to the City, the desire to adopt a new Overlay code resulted from a 180-day moratorium on zoning action enacted by the City Council on August 19, 2016. Because of the unique characteristics and needs of the area the Overlay covers, a separate and independent process is needed to review and develop a new code for this area to ensure high quality development to account for the transition of development that has and will take place.
The is City seeking a final product that provides the proper regulations and incentives for redevelopment in appropriate areas, maintaining and enhancement of areas not likely for redevelopment, and protection of single-family neighborhoods within and that border the perimeter of the Overlay boundary.
The work of the selected consultant will ultimately result in a new Overlay that provides regulations to implement the land use policies identified in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and other planning and policy documents. Additional objectives include developing a “coherent and straightforward set of regulations, eliminating conflicting language; placing a greater emphasis on architectural standards and requirements to develop and define the concept of an “urban village”; and to determine the appropriate organization and format the Overlay code will take – Form-Based Zoning vs Traditional Overlay.”
This effort will include associated activities needed for implementation, such as the detailed review and analysis of the current Overlay regulations, Land Development Codes, Comprehensive Plan, and other local and state codes that may be related to or impact the Overlay.
Some Project Objectives are:
- Implementation of the City’s Comprehensive Plan/Character Area Study
- Development of a legally sound and defensible zoning district
- Creation of a user‐friendly Overlay code that utilizes clear, concise and common sense language
- Creation of Design Guidelines for the Overlay that provides specific illustrations and detailed drawings, where appropriate
- Preservation and protection of established residential neighborhoods, single‐family uses, while incentivizing redevelopment in specific, targeted areas – refer to City’s 2034 Comprehensive
Plan for guidance:
- Regulations that incentivize or require a greater degree of open space and more sustainable development practices
- Inclusion of best practices to create a multi‐modal environment
- Enhancement of the architectural requirements and guidelines that defines an “urban village” environment
- Creation of sub‐areas for the Overlay to handle differing built environments and land use factors
Submit progress reports to the City’s project manager on a monthly basis. Progress reports will briefly summarize work accomplished to date, progress of specific work tasks, key decisions that will require input or discussion with City staff, and a list of any significant challenges or unresolved issues.
Prepare, submit, and monitor the project schedule. The project schedule shall be updated monthly and submitted with the monthly project report.
Conduct meetings and presentations that will include an initial project meeting with City staff, periodic progress meetings, community involvement meetings, and other meetings as necessary throughout the preparation and adoption, where applicable, of Key Deliverables.
Community involvement is a critical component of all City of Brookhaven planning efforts.
As part of the initial information gathering stage, consultants shall gather a sense of the prevailing sentiment among business/property owners, City staff, elected officials, and other key stakeholders the City will help the consultant identify. The initial, and any necessary follow‐up interviews, shall facilitate the understanding of the existing environment and development pattern expected in the region over the next 20 years.
The Mayor and Council may appoint a Sounding Board of community residents and business owners to assist with this project. The Sounding Board will not necessarily have any technical knowledge or specific financial stake in the outcome of the project, but are generally interested in the City’s wellbeing. The Sounding Board is an important method of gathering input, akin to a standing focus group, but will not be steering the process or directing the consulting team’s efforts. We anticipate gaining input and preliminary feedback for different Key Deliverables prior to each community meeting and presentation to the City Council.
The selected consultant will meet with the Sounding Board at least four (4) times throughout the course of the project to solicit feedback and ensure that the best interests of the community are being acknowledged and addressed.
Initial community meetings will need to help educate the public at large about what the Zoning Ordinance does, how it is arranged, and why it is relevant to them. Later meetings will need to gather input on defining issues and alternatives, build community consensus, and provide meaningful avenues for input from the community.
The City shall require up to 4 community (public) meetings and up to three separate occasions provide a mobile “pop up” station to solicit input from the public at various locations within the Overlay district prior to the adoption process. Proposers shall include relevant information regarding scheduling of community meetings and “pop up” stations.
The consultant shall be responsible to provide digital modeling of the Overlay District based on existing zoning, with a focus on key development sites in the Overlay. Also, modeling of development alternatives based on the Draft Metrics could shape development on key development sites. The model is not required to show detailed building designs but provide a bird’s eye view massing envelopes.
Deputy Director of Community Development, Patrice Ruffin, said Tuesday, the process of advertising for the proposals through the eventual award of the contract, is expected to take about three months. The amount of time to actually perform the work could take several months, thereafter.
Vendors interested in this contract must have their Proposals filed with the City no later than December 16th at 10:00 AM. Late proposals will be rejected and returned unopened.