The Brookhaven City Council voted unanimously at its July 26 meeting to deny a rezoning request for the proposed Solis Dresden development that included 113 apartments.
The vote follows the Planning Commission’s vote to deny recommending approval three weeks ago of the request as well as the city staff’s recommendation the rezoning request be denied.
Terwilliger Pappas was seeking to rezone four tracts of land at the corner of Dresden Drive and Appalachee Drive to build Solis Dresden, a four-story apartment complex with a restaurant and retail on the ground floor.
At the beginning the July 26 meeting, the developer’s attorney asked to withdraw its rezoning request without prejudice. The property is currently zoned for single-family homes.
However, several residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to ask the council deny the rezoning request rather than accept the withdrawal or defer the vote. City Hall was packed with homeowners wearing red shirts to show opposition to the development.
Laurel David, attorney for the developer, asked for the withdrawal because she said the property owner would not be able to develop the property for two years.
City Attorney Chris Balch said there is an ordinance that allows the property owner to come back before the council after six months to make another rezoning request.
Developers met with community members over the course of several months in large meetings and in smaller meetings and despite many changes to the project, those living in the surrounding neighborhoods could not support the development. More than 730 people have signed a petition urging against high density development on Dresden Drive near single family neighborhoods.
Residents told council members that while they don’t oppose development, they can’t support more apartments on Dresden Drive. And while the developers did make some changes to their original plans, the changes never met the requests by residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We are the most sought after prom date and we have standards,” said Karen Dernavich of Brookhaven’s popularity with developers.
Councilmember John Park questioned why some developers seem to bring to the table plans they know won’t be supported by residents and then agree to make some changes only after strong backlash that creates anxiety and hours of work for residents.
“I would be telling developers to bring their ‘A’ game earlier,” Park said.
“Those [zoning] laws are in place for a reason … in order to protect the citizens. These are people with jobs, children and they are working hard to protect their neighborhoods,” Park said. “For us to ignore that and to not send a clear message and not deny when it is warranted … is irresponsible. This is the time to act and I support this denial.”
Councilmember Bates Mattison pointed out that Mayor John Ernst is seeking a six-month moratorium on high density development — a direct result of the backlash to the Solis Dresden project and another proposed and contentious project, Dresden Village, also on Dresden Drive. The Dresden Village rezoning request, which includes 194 apartments, is slated to go before the Planning Commission on Aug. 3.
“The city at large needs to have conversation of what we want to be developed on Dresden Drive,” Mattison said. “Our codes would allow these applications that allow 60 units per acre.”
The perfect opportunity to do so is with the city’s current neighborhood character study project, he said. The Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District that includes Dresden Drive is not part of the character study, however.
Ernst said the character studies are to look at residential areas and the Overlay District will have to be addressed by zoning ordinances. The zoning codes will be addressed after the character studies are completed, in about six months.
“Let’s use the next six months to see what can be built on Dresden and Peachtree,” Mattison said.