Google Fiber’s arrival in Brookhaven hit a roadblock Dec. 16 as the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejected its plan for a key utility hut in Parkside Park.
“This was not Google’s fault,” said Griff Sims, one of several residents who opposed the plan. He blamed the city for confusion about the application and a plan that would place a long, high fence along the park’s Dresden Drive frontage.
Google Fiber is a forthcoming fiber-optic Internet and TV service that Google claims will be 100 times faster than typical broadband connections. Atlanta and several metro area cities—including Brookhaven and Sandy Springs—were chosen for Google Fiber pilot installations earlier this year.
Google Fiber’s system requires a number of utility huts in central locations. In Brookhaven, the city agreed to provide space for two huts in public parks. One in Blackburn Park is already under construction. The other was to be in Parkside Park, a narrow strip of green space running along Dresden Drive between Apple Valley Road and Parkside Drive.
The hut—a 336-square-foot box surrounded by a high fence—was originally intended to go alongside the DeKalb County fire station at the park’s western end. But, Sims said, it turned out that the city was mistaken in thinking it owned a strip of land there.
That meant the Google Fiber hut had to be placed deeper into the park, much closer to a stream and Dresden Drive. The proximity to the stream required a zoning variance to reduce a buffer zone from 75 to 25 feet. The proximity to Dresden triggered community complaints about a fence at least 55 feet long front the street in a public park. The plan does include some vegetation screening the hut.
“I have seen this fencing before in another park—Jurassic Park,” said Sims, recalling his words to the ZBA.
There were zoning-oriented questions, too, including whether Google or the city should request the variance, why a zoning overlay district wasn’t addressed in the application, and whether the application was fully updated with the plan changes, Sims said.
The ZBA voted 4-0 to deny the variance, city spokeswoman Ann Marie Quill said.
It remains unclear what Google will do next. The registered applicants, Google Fiber Georgia and CCR Environmental, did not immediately respond to questions. However, Sims said he spoke to their representatives after the meeting about possible alternative locations on privately owned sites, such as nearby railroad right of way.