The signs line the streets of Historic Brookhaven. “Save Our Streets.” “Don’t Rezone Brookhaven’s R 100.” “NO to 87 ft. High Rise Overlooking Capital City Club.”
They’re referring to JLB Realty’s desire to rezone property at 3920, 3926 and 3930 Peachtree Road, which includes the old Hastings Nursery site, from commercial and single-family residential for a mixed-use development. Representatives of JLB did not return a call seeking comment.
“We’re not against development in general, we’re against an 87-foot high-rise towering over our neighborhood,” nearby Historic Brookhaven resident Gayle Sherlag said.
She said the neighborhood has presented its wishes to the developer. Those wishes include keeping the 150-foot forested buffer at 3926 Peachtree Road zoned for single-family residential and to not disturb it. That property lies between the commercially zoned parcels on Peachtree and a handful of backyards of Brookhaven Drive homes. Sherlag lives in one of those homes.
“We all know there’s going to be development,” she said. “We just want it properly integrated.”
Neighbors Larry Bradner and David and Cari Ouderkirk also live in some of those homes abutting the possible development, and losing the forested buffer behind their homes concerns them.
Under the developers’ original plans filed with the city, the apartments would be built 30 feet into that forested buffer, and the plans are to keep only 30 feet of landscaped buffer space between the neighborhood and the development. That space will also include a detention pond and a public open space.
Because of the topography, Cari Ouderkirk’s property lies 19 feet below the surface where the eight-story apartment building would be built.
“It will be looming over us,” she said. “It will literally block the sun.”
Her husband, David Ouderkirk, said that according to the developer, 40 to 50 balconies will also overlook their yard. “There’s nothing in this area nearly as tall as what they’re talking about building,” Cari Ouderkirk said.
The developer planned to ask on Feb. 4 for a delay to the March 4 Planning Commission meeting for more time to work on the plan with neighbors, according to planning commission documents. The City Council on Dec. 16 granted a 60-day deferral, remanding the case back to the Feb. 4 Planning Commission.
The original rezoning request, which had the support of city staff and the Community Development Department, would make way for a development consisting of 273 multifamily units, 17,695 square feet of retail and commercial, 2,500 square feet for a leasing office and 6,691 square feet for an enclosed amenity area.
“Given the emerging trend for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development along Peachtree Road as part of the Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District, the subject property appears to be underutilized,” the staff report stated. “The requested PC-2 [Pedestrian Community] zoning would allow for a density and use that is consistent with the Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District, and the policy and intent of the Comprehensive Plan.”
Bradner says he’s not against the property being developed.
“All we want here is to protect that old-forest buffer and drop the height of [the apartments] so we have this smooth transition from a 100-year-old historic neighborhood to an urban progressive streetscape,” Bradner said. “Just make it smooth and natural, and make it feel like it was always intended to be this way; don’t just plop down an 87-foot-high structure.”
He said that the stipulations that residents have asked the developer for include dropping the height of the apartment building, moving the detention pond underneath some of the structures and eliminating the public open space.
“We’re not saying, ‘Do nothing,’” Bradner said. “We’re just saying bring it down, move it forward and leave that [forest] alone back there.
While a new site plan had not been submitted to staff by late January, staff had recommended the city approve the original plan with some conditions, including eliminating a curb cut along Peachtree Road and increasing the landscaped buffer to 60 feet.