Brookhaven, GA, December 16, 2016 – Commentary, by Karen Dernavich – On January 4th, the Planning Commission will vote and make a recommendation to the City Council regarding RZ16-05 (commonly known as the “Connolly” development). In their latest plan they shared with the public on Dec. 14th we saw they had made some nice changes to their plan – town homes on Caldwell (although design needs to be reworked) and the Dixie Moon restaurant to be in the style of the original house that was there, but we also saw they are still up at 47.98 units per acre.
While some argue “they have compromised from their original number of 56.6 units per acre” and we should just let it go, I just want to ask: Are folks looking at this holistically? Again, not against redevelopment, but let’s remember that these are not the only lots on Dresden that will be redeveloped.
Last summer I wrote an article about why PC2 does not belong on Dresden, I still hold this belief and have heard the same from many of you. We have to look at Dresden in its totality. The lot another developer, Terwilliger-Pappas, tried to get rezoned this past summer will be right back demanding PC2 and high density based on this project gaining approval for PC2. Dresden Forrest, a ~10 acre area, could also be redeveloped and claimed for PC2. Then there are 23 acres along Apple Valley north of Dresden. It becomes a never-ending vicious cycle where we the residents have to come out for each rezoning request and argue why this is crushing our aging infrastructure and quality of life. Each time we are asked why we are so against development as if we have not been laying out the data regarding smart development for almost a year now.
If we acknowledge that PC2 is inappropriate for a two lane street next to single family homes, then the next densest classification that Brookhaven offers is 30 unit/acre. The existing density along Dresden within the Overlay averages 27 units/acre. This even includes the two large apartment complexes DeKalb approved: Rosewood and @1377. Additionally, if we look to our code we see that the Comprehensive Plan and the Overlay call for our City Center to be at the MARTA site and to taper down in density from there. This project will be on a ¼ mile strip of Dresden that would have 37% more apartments than the entire MARTA TOD and will pull the City Center off of Peachtree. It will create an “apartment row” feeling rather than a “Village Feel” that many moved here for. Limiting the density to 30 units/acre will still provide a vibrant mixed use development while keeping our downtown at MARTA.
So what is driving the push to PC2 and high density multifamily?
Is it the desperate need for more apartments in Brookhaven? The sign twirlers for the existing complexes, seen on Dresden every weekend, do not indicate this. Further the entire urban Atlanta market has seen a dramatic rise in vacancies for Class A apartments over the past 18 months. With all the new supply that has come online, this rate has increased to 11.13% from 4.0%.
Is it that Developers can get in and out easier building apartments than townhomes? Maybe, but given that the new John Wieland town homes on Peachtree across from Kroger have already sold out for over $1M each, it doesn’t seem to me that getting in and out with a good profit on townhomes is all that difficult in this market.
Is it because the land prices are too high? Ah, here we may have something. I get it, property investments are meant to make money. No issue there. But when a city grants ever higher and higher densities, the land prices increase with that acknowledgement. It gets to the point where the only thing that can be built is apartments. We need to break that cycle.
So my plea is that the landowners would get together with the developers and be reasonable. Get the density more in line with the Comprehensive Plan and Overlay intent; taper down from MARTA; and do something wonderful for everyone. This can be a win/win for all parties and I believe the residents would support it.
Alden Place Dr.