Brookhaven groups need to organize to protect their neighborhoods from intensive development, an architect and veteran of Atlanta’s zoning battles told members of the Brookhaven Community Connection.

“The time has come for there to be a large, powerful political group in this neighborhood who knows what they want,” architect Jerry Cooper, chairman of the board for the architectural firm Cooper Carry, told BCC members at their June 14 meeting. “The time has come not just for business, but for safeguarding [the neighborhoods].”

Cooper, a resident of the Pine Hills neighborhood, cited his community’s experience dealing with officials in the city of Atlanta over zoning issues along Lenox Road as an example of how things could work. The neighborhood developed guidelines for zoning in the area, he said, and worked with city officials to keep developments from exceeding the guidelines.

“People in Pine Hills understood change was at hand,” Cooper said. “The issue was how to manage that change, not how to oppose it.”

Similar development pressures surround Brookhaven, he said. “You have a marvelous situation,” he said. “You have Peachtree Road. That is going to develop with mixed uses. These strip shopping centers are going to go. The land is simply too [expensive]. You need to protect single-family neighborhoods.

“I think protection of the single-family neighborhoods is crucial,” he said. “I don’t think everybody wants to live above a store. Perhaps the time has come to formulate a plan for how you want this neighborhood to look.”

Several BCC members seemed to agree. “Brookhaven needs to get organized,” said BCC Vice President Peggy Witt. “The development is going to come. If we don’t get organized, the developers are going to dictate what happens.”

Todd Lantier, president of the group, said members of the community should get more involved. “I think his call to arms for getting involved in the community is enormous,” he said. “Community service shouldn’t be like a punishment for a legal situation. It should be like going to church. I wish more people would get involved in community service.”

Cooper said single-family neighborhoods are part of metro Atlanta’s strength and communities should work to protect them.

“You guys are wealthy,” he said. “Hire a planning firm.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.