By Dyana Bagby and Joe Earle
About 50 Brookhaven residents gathered April 26 to confront developers who propose building shops and 206 apartments at the intersection of Dresden and Caldwell Drives.
Residents voiced concerns about the number of apartments planned in the Dresden area and the traffic that the project, called Dresden Village, would bring.
Some argued that the developers, Connolly Investment and Development and Fairfield Residential, should reduce the number of apartments closer to the 150 allowed by current zoning on the property or should use townhomes instead of apartments in a portion of the planned development.
Sisters Suzanne and Jennifer Heath, who live in the Brookhaven Fields neighborhood, said apartment construction is changing their community. Jennifer Heath said 1,877 apartments are being built in the area and another 1,374 are proposed, including the ones at Dresden Village.
“We’re getting to the point we’re starting to draw a line in the sand,” Jennifer Heath said.
“If we don’t get every developer to give us as much as they can, it’s a lost cause,” Suzanne Heath said. “We’re at a tipping point. All we can do is fight.”
‘Enough is enough’
The developers plan to ask Brookhaven city officials to rezone the slightly more than 3 acres at 1336-1370 Dresden and 2544-256 Caldwell to allow construction of a mixed-use development including apartments, retail space and a parking deck. The project would include about 20,000 square feet of retail space and 206 apartments.
After the meeting, held at the Briarcliff community center in Briarcliff Park, the developers and their representatives said they likely would hold another public meeting during May to discuss the development.
What the developers are asking for and what is approved already for the site currently are not much different, said J.R. Connolly, president and CEO of Connolly Investment and Development. Current zoning of the property allows for 155 multi-family units, the developers said.
The property is also currently zoned for 35,000 square feet of commercial space; Connolly is seeking less, about 19,890 square feet for shops and restaurants.
Sonja Greeley lives nearby. She said the area already has a great deal of apartments, with the complex @1377 across the street from this proposed development. And with the transit-oriented development proposed at the nearby Brookhaven MARTA station that includes some 600 residential units, it’s time to dial back the density, she said.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 18 years and we’ve been happy with most of the development up to this point,” Greeley said. “We have reached the tipping point and enough is enough.”
Dresden Drive’s recent influx of housing and commercial development is appreciated, she said, but adding more density means more traffic, and Greeley said she has “reached her capacity for tolerance.”
Developer: We have tried to be sensitive to neighbors’ concerns
Connolly said a traffic study done for the development shows minimal impact on the area, but excludes the congestion created by those trying to get in and out of the small office lot because that is an “existing issue.” Connolly said the proposed development includes, on Dresden Drive, a 10-foot sidewalk with 5-foot landscaping, parallel parking and a 5-foot wide bike lane to encourage other modes of transportation. A selling point is also the walkability to Brookhaven’s MARTA station.
Greeley said she appreciates being able to walk to restaurants on Dresden Drive from her home, but it is time to halt more development. “I enjoy being able to walk to restaurants near my house and understand the need for more than just residents in single-family homes and the need for apartments,” she said. “It seems the city is bordering on being more focused on business growth. I’m frustrated that every developer who asks for rezoning seems to get it. Stick with what you got.”
Other residents from nearby neighborhoods worried about cut-through traffic as residents of the apartments sought to avoid backups on Dresden. Still others asked whether the developer would include some townhomes to buffer the single-family neighborhoods nearby.
Connolly said the developers have tried to be sensitive to neighbors’ concerns.
The outer design of the apartments along Caldwell Drive will look similar to high-end townhomes, to better blend with the single-family homes in the nearby neighborhoods, he said.
Also, the plans include a six-level paid parking deck with some 200 spaces available to the public who want to shop and eat in the area, Connolly said, in an effort to alleviate a known parking crunch on Dresden Drive. Residents of the development will have 250 parking spaces available to them on higher levels of the deck and those will be gated, Connolly said.
“We are providing added parking spaces beyond code – we know there is an existing problem there,” he said.
Connolly is also hoping local restaurants will want to lease space in the proposed development.
“Our goals are to get two or three restaurants with patios,” he said. “We’d like more local restaurants to complement the area. Dresden Drive has a nice village character we’d like to continue,” he said.