When it comes to a city of Brookhaven, the business community, much like the residential community, has differing views on the idea.
Voters will be asked in a July 31 referendum whether they would like to create a city of Brookhaven in the area bounded by Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, I-85 and Atlanta.
Some local business people think a city government would be beneficial. Others worry about the uncertainty a new government could bring. Still others feel like nothing would really change for them regardless of what happens when voters head to the polls.
Taryn Reed, owner of Loving Local Artist Gallery and Boutique on Dresden Drive, said she thinks having a smaller municipal government would be helpful for Brookhaven business owners.
Reed, who makes her own jewelry and sells art in her bright Village Place storefront, said her experience with DeKalb County hasn’t been positive.
“I’ll be more than happy not to work with DeKalb County anymore,” Reed said. “It was very difficult to get a business license. They’re clearly overwhelmed. Hopefully with a local, smaller government it would be easier to get a business license.”
Down the street at Verde Taqueria, manager Andrew Arsulowicz said he hears a lot of debate about the Brookhaven referendum from customers at the bar. He said his patrons are split on the issue.
“Everyone is kind of 50-50,” Arsulowicz said. “I think they’re more concerned about where the money is going to come from.”
Arsulowicz himself said he doesn’t have a strong opinion on cityhood one way or the other.
“As a business, I don’t think it’s going to affect me,” Arsulowicz said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Everything is kind of up in the air.”
He’s heard talk of more police presence if Brookhaven becomes a city, which he said could be a good thing.
“I’d always like police presence,” Arsulowicz said.
Tim Nama is a builder and home remodeler who got involved with the Brookhaven cityhood movement early through Citizens for North DeKalb, which funded the initial feasibility study.
Nama said he thinks a city of Brookhaven would benefit his business because he has had trouble obtaining the building permits he needs through DeKalb County.
“An example would be that I purchased a lot in Ashford Park three months ago and it took me over two months to obtain a demolition permit in DeKalb County,” Nama said. “It was 46 days before it was reviewed. Especially in the current home building environment right now … you can‘t afford to wait two months on a permit just to demolish a house.”
Nama said he supports a new city even though it could mean more regulations on building.
“I’ve built in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. The stricter enforcement in those areas is balanced out by the exceptional customer service. If you do have a problem you can call an inspector and get them on the phone and have them explain exactly what they saw,” he said.
But Jodi Cobb, an architectural and interior designer who works from her Drew Valley home, worries that a new city would be too risky for businesses right now.
“Being a small business owner myself, I’m concerned about what it is going to cost me,” Cobb said. “I’m not sure if my license fees are going to go up. Are my property taxes going to go up? It’s those kinds of questions that can’t really be answered until a government is put in place and elected and they make those kinds of decisions.”
Cobb, who is on the committee of No City Brookhaven, said her business was “decimated” by the economy. She had to lay off employees and work from home due to the recession.
She said her experience makes her wary of the idea of starting a city based on projected numbers.
“When you’ve been through the devastation of what the economy did to your own business, you have a tendency to look at business ventures like a new city a little more carefully,” Cobb said.