In its second year of cityhood, Brookhaven faced a unique set of challenges. In April, the city lost its District 2 councilman when Jim Eyre abruptly resigned. It made a first attempt at creating a charter school. The city also continued working to change and update ordinances it inherited from DeKalb County and create a long-term plan for the city. Brookhaven also added two land parcels to the city despite pushback from neighbors.
District 2 loses councilman, elects new one
In April, Brookhaven City Coucilman Jim Eyre abruptly resigned his post at the beginning of a council meeting, leaving District 2 without a council representative until a special election could be held in November.
“There comes a time when you have to be true to yourself,” Eyre said April 23. “Last night was it. I decided I was no longer effectively representing District 2.”
Eyre had been the sole member of the council who publicly criticized the salary and contract offered to City Manager Marie Garrett.
In November, John Park won the District 2 seat by claiming nearly 60 percent of the vote cast in a four-man race for the seat. Park had organized the hugely popular Atlanta SoccerFest in Brookhaven earlier in the year, and vowed to work on park improvements.
Park handily defeated Tim Nama, a former Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, who collected 33 percent of the votes cast. Two other candidates – Charles P. Barry III and Bill Brown – dropped out of the race during the last week of the campaign and each polled about 4 percent of the votes cast.
Pink Pony settlement
After agreeing to end a string of lawsuits between the city and the Pink Pony strip club, city leaders said it was time to move on, while the strip club threw a “settlement party.”
The settlement, approved by the Brookhaven City Council on Nov. 4, ended three lawsuits between the club and the city, and a dispute that goes back to the city’s start more than a year ago. The settlement came after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in the city’s favor in one of the suits and said the city had the authority to regulate sexually-oriented businesses.
Brookhaven corrects zoning map
About a year ago, city employees discovered the city’s zoning map was full of mistakes. Because of inconsistencies and missing files, many zoning changes that had been made by DeKalb County officials before Brookhaven became a city weren’t reflected on the city’s official zoning map.
City officials scrambled to fix the flawed zoning map they adopted in 2013. They hired a consultant that combed through DeKalb records and drew up a new map that fixed errors on nearly 1,000 parcels.
In August, Brookhaven City Council readopted the corrected zoning map.
Creating a charter school
While the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia on Aug. 27 denied the petition for Brookhaven Innovation Academy, a charter school planned by City Council that had also received the support of the DeKalb County School System. Councilman Bates Mattison said the city will petition for the school again in the upcoming year. Bonnie Holliday, the commission’s executive director, said she is encouraging the school to reapply for next year.
The purpose of the school, officials say, is to address overcrowding at DeKalb schools while also offering a STEM program with computer programming as part of the curriculum.
Bye to the Bard
Housed in Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center for nearly three decades, Georgia Shakespeare announced on Oct. 8 that it was ceasing operations due to “substantial financial deficiencies.”
That announcement came just weeks after the company publicly declared it was in financial trouble and cancelled its production of “Henry V,” which had been scheduled to open Oct. 1.
The company had earlier in the year initiated a fundraising campaign to raise $750,000 in operating capital from strategic funders to eliminate debt and create a working capital reserve. Managing Director Jennifer Bauer-Lyons said that the company at the end had $343,000 in debt, and that the theater had been using operating money to pay the debt.
The city approved a set of long-range plans this year. City Council on Nov. 18 approved its Comprehensive Plan 2034.
“We are excited to have this first-ever city of Brookhaven comprehensive plan,” Susan Canon, community development director, said, calling it a “20-year blueprint” for city planning.
A highlight of the plan is a character area map with that focuses on 13 areas of the city and their long-term use. The plan calls for maintaining the character of eight residential areas and looking at five community activity areas that could benefit from mixed-use developments.
The city also approved plans for parks, transportation projects and Buford Highway redevelopment.
Boyer out, Jester in
Elaine Boyer had held the seat representing the northern end of DeKalb County on the County Commission for years. Then, last summer, federal authorities accused her of pocketing county money. Boyer resigned, pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced in early 2015. Five candidates ran in a special election to succeed her. After a runoff election Dec. 2, Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, a former member of the DeKalb school board, won the job.
Annexation of CHOA, Executive Park
After three delays over about two months, Brookhaven City Council on Dec. 8 unanimously added Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Executive Park to the city. The council took its time to mull the early October request from the two parcels, located on the city’s south side and across I-85.
The city released a service report stating that the annexation would require the city to hire five more police officers and another code enforcement official. City officials say they were initially concerned the city could not afford to bring the properties in.
Owners of the properties agreed to pay for the services the city would have to provide in order to not burden taxpayers. Ultimately, the parties came to a “cost defrayment agreement,” whereby CHOA would pay $342,000 to provide services for its tax-exempt parcels. CHOA representatives say they plan to start developing the property as soon as possible. Meanwhile, a special tax district will be created for Executive Park and the non-exempt parcels of CHOA to offset the cost of their portion of city services.
Walgreens gets approval
After years of contentious debate, the Walgreens project on Peachtree Road finally got the vote it needed to move forward. Brookhaven’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 on July 16 to allow a series of zoning variances needed for a new proposal for the project.
The plan calls for a three-story, brick-faced building with a parking garage at the corner of Peachtree Road and Colonial Drive. Walgreens will operate a pharmacy on the first floor, and offices will fill the second and third floors, developer Jay Gipson said. Construction was expected to be completed in 2015.
Walgreens had been trying to locate a pharmacy on the property for years, stretching back to before the creation of the city of Brookhaven. Its plans drew opposition from neighbors because they said the proposals violated terms of the city’s overlay zoning district. The overlay, which governs aspects of development in the area, was created to give the area an “urban look,” and requires multi-story buildings built along the street.
City Council on Aug. 26 unanimously voted to approve a new tree ordinance it had been discussing for a number of weeks, but vowed to keep working on the ordinance with citizen input.
The council first heard proposed changes to the tree code at a July 15 work session in which the new regulations were presented with the intent of improving the ordinance, which was adopted from DeKalb County when the city formed. Before the decision, some residents voiced concerns about the proposed ordinance, saying it is too lenient on developers and doesn’t do enough to preserve trees.