This letter is in response to the letter written by Bill and Elaine Moore in the July 1-July 14 issue of the Brookhaven Reporter regarding the private soccer complex that Concorde Fire wants to build in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
We can all agree that soccer is a wonderful activity for children and teenagers. We love seeing kids get outside and exercise instead of sitting in front of a video game or TV. And organizations that help them, either for-profit or not-for-profit, do commendable work.
But that’s not what the issue is about.
Concorde Fire, a 1,500-member private elite soccer club, is in a contract to buy 12 acres of a winding strip of land along Nancy Creek in North DeKalb. This land is snuggled between homes in a quiet, wooded residential area of Brookhaven. It sits next to a two-lane road that has the misfortune of connecting Chamblee with Sandy Springs without having the capacity to handle regular commuter traffic.
Concorde Fire does not want to build a home. They do not want to build a neighborhood park. They want to build three soccer fields, 150 parking spaces, and a 4,000-plus square foot clubhouse which will be used for meetings and lawn maintenance equipment. They want to house practices, games, and the occasional national tournament.
We represent the 19 surrounding neighborhoods and their 750 homes. We care about protecting our neighborhoods, and we think you should, too. Why? The land they are trying to buy is zoned R-100. That means residential homes only. There is an exception to that rule for “neighborhood parks,” such as a tennis court or walking trails open to all residents.
Kathy Zickert, the lawyer hired by Concorde Fire, thinks she has found a loophole in the zoning law. She’s claiming that this private complex would be a “neighborhood park,” despite the fact that no neighbors would actually be allowed to use the facility, even if they pay the $1,300 annual membership fee. If she succeeds, this would set a dangerous precedent in DeKalb County that would mean no residential neighborhood would be safe from commercial development.
In their application, Concorde Fire calls this land which used to have a home, “distressed residential property.” Perhaps you know of other “distressed residential properties” near you that she might be interested in for a future client? A home next door that had flooding issues? The house down the street that has been bank-owned for a year?
Our position is that R-100 residential zoning must continue to be enforced. We don’t want a business as a next door neighbor and we don’t think you should have to be worried that one is coming your way either.
But isn’t Concorde Fire a 501(c)(3) organization that gives out scholarships? Yes it is. It’s also a big business that grossed over $1.5 million dollars last year, yet pays no income taxes. It’s a very busy business that has kids and their parents driving to and from practices and games. The three proposed fields on this property can hold 90 kids. That’s 90 cars waiting on Johnson Ferry to pull into the parking lot every hour before games and 90 cars pulling out on Johnson Ferry at the same time.
Johnson Ferry Road may travel through three counties, but in Brookhaven it is a small, two-lane road. The property in question is at the bottom of a very steep hill, and just around a bend. In the evenings it’s a parking lot going south and a racetrack going north.
Ambulances going to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Northside or St. Joseph’s hospitals already struggle to squeeze through gridlock. In fact, DeKalb County is so concerned about traffic safety that officials won’t allow new homes in the area to have a driveway on the road. But Concorde Fire’s application claims hundreds more cars coming in and out each evening won’t impact traffic.
And traffic is not our only concern. This property is attractive to the club because much of it is unbuildable wetland and flood plain. But any homeowner on Nancy Creek should be wary of any development on flood plain. Million-dollar homes in Buckhead whose owners had been assured were safe found their kitchens under water in 2009 and 2010.
Every time someone chops down a tree or bulldozes wetland in the Nancy Creek floodplain, the 100-year flood line rises another few inches. Letting this development move forward would practically guarantee that those homeowners who saw the creek stop rising just below their doorsteps in 2009 will be flooded next time.
Please understand that we love soccer and we love children. We agree that Atlanta and Brookhaven especially need more parks and green space. This is not park space, and this won’t benefit any of the neighborhood children who will have to drive past this complex to get to a park just to ride a bicycle or even kick a soccer ball. Write your commissioner to tell them that private businesses don’t belong in neighborhoods.
Sandy Murray on behalf of Ashford Alliance Community Association; David Midler on behalf of Bluffs of Nancy Creek; Angie Mabry on behalf of Curry Drive; Bill Gannon on behalf of Evergreen; Donna Gapen, Glenwood Close; Kathy Glenn on behalf of Hampton Hall; Steve Jamski on behalf of High Grove; Chris Laird on behalf of High Point Civic Association; Ray and Wanda Segars on behalf of Knolls of Nancy Creek; Kim Forster on behalf of Mill Creek; Scott and Fay Ann Sherris on behalf of Mill Place; Harriet Mills on behalf of Ridgeview; Jason Yost on behalf of St. James Crossing; Susie Bearden on behalf of Sunderland; Courtney Grantham on behalf of Telfair; Suellen Morse on behalf of Tennyson; David Lauterbach on behalf of Wescott; Ken Yarbrough on behalf of Woodchase; Diane Calloway on behalf of Wood Valley.