Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst announced July 14 that he is seeking a moratorium on rezoning for high-density development projects, specifically apartment complexes.

Residents review a character area studies map at the kick-off meeting on July 14 at City Hall. (City of Brookhaven)

Ernst made the announcement at one of the city’s kick-off meetings for its character area studies. Those in attendance applauded the decision.

The City Council will have to vote on the moratorium next month, Ernst said.

“We’re stopping the train,” he said. “It gives space for the character area studies to play out and to get input from the citizens … so they don’t have to be fearful of the next rezoning.”

The moratorium would not affect current proposed developments, including those on Dresden Drive and the MARTA redevelopment, he said.

Developments that don’t require rezoning also are not affected by the moratorium.

The call for a moratorium comes after proposed mixed-use developments on Dresden Drive have brought out numerous residents living in the surrounding single-family-home neighborhoods to protest the high-density developments at community meetings.
The Planning Commission recently voted to not recommend approval of the proposed Solis Dresden development at the corner of Dresden and Appalachee drives. Developers there want to build a four-story complex with 113 apartments with the main floor having retail and a restaurant.

Another similar mixed-use development on Dresden Drive, named Dresden Village, is proposed to go on the property where the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner office is located.

Residents living in surrounding neighborhoods have complained that these kinds of high-density developments will only worsen traffic in already congested areas, will negatively affect their neighborhood’s character and put stress on the city’s infrastructure.

The four-story Dresden Village development includes 194 apartments. It goes before the Planning Commission on Aug. 3.

Character studies to look at residential neighborhoods
During a kick-off for the long-awaited character studies at City Hall on July 14, residents learned the studies were to take place specifically in residential neighborhoods with some infill development: the Lakes District, Blackburn Park neighborhood, Lynwood Park, Osborne Park, Ashford Park-Drew Valley, Brookhaven Heights-Brookhaven Fields, Briarwood Park, Roxboro, Lenox Park, Buford Highway and Historic Brookhaven.

Interactive community meetings will be held in August and September for people to make suggestions and recommendations for their neighborhoods, including height of buildings, density and architectural style. The entire process is expected to take six months.

Many residents attending questioned why the Peachtree Corridor was not included in the character studies as well as the Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay District, where much of the controversial development is taking place.

“We did not include those. Our focus is mainly on residential neighborhoods,” said Kristine Dedrick of Sycamore Consulting, the company hired by the city for $83,000 to facilitate the character studies. “This particular study is just on residential.”

However, several residents said it is the Peachtree Corridor and its traffic congestion that prompted them to get involved in the character studies. Also, the proposed mixed-use developments on Dresden Drive have been causing serious angst for many residents living in the surrounding single-family neighborhoods and residents said they want to be able to have a say in how that area is developed in the future.

Community Development Director Ben Song said people will be able to speak on those areas while participating in the specific neighborhood meetings that border the Peachtree Corridor and Overlay District.

Song said the recommendations made with resident input will be the “meat” to add to the city’s current comprehensive plan. The recommendations will also be a supplement to the comprehensive plan and not replace it, he said.

After the recommendations are hammered out in detail, the city can look to them when rewriting its zoning ordinances, which regulates what kind of development goes where, Song said.

“Preserve, maintain and enhance – what does that truly mean?” Song said.

Public input will define these words and then allow the city to incorporate them into the “regulatory tool” or zoning ordinances, he said.