There are dozens of long-standing and powerful homeowners associations in Brookhaven, but not all residents say they feel represented by the powerful groups regularly called upon by developers to review their projects.
In recent months, a new group of homeowners has formed named We Are Brookhaven. They already appear to be a force to be reckoned with. The group was successful in helping convince Brookhaven City Council to vote Oct. 25 to defer voting on the controversial MARTA mixed-use development, despite its backing from such noted HOAs as the Brookhaven-Peachtree Community Alliance and the Brookhaven Heights HOA.
“I’m what you call a reluctant activist,” said Jen Heath, founder of We Are Brookhaven and a resident of the Brookhaven Fields neighborhood. “They [the other HOAs] forced me to be something I’ve never been before.”
As of October, the group is officially recognized as a business by the Secretary of State and Heath said it is seeking non-profit status. She said the plan is for the group to have a board of directors and that members make donations rather than paying annual fees.
Heath said when developers began asking the city to build apartment complexes on Dresden Drive and she heard news about the MARTA redevelopment, she wanted to become more involved. But, she said, she could not find out when HOAs were meeting, specifically with MARTA representatives.
This has led We Are Brookhaven members accuse members of the established HOAs of conspiring with MARTA, but nothing could be further from the truth, said BPCA member Jack Honderd. “Contrary to what has been said there is not been some backroom conspiracy,” he said at the Oct. 25 City Council meeting.
Heath started organizing with other disaffected homeowners and discovered MARTA officials were only contacting registered HOA boards, leaving out the “average citizen,” she said.
“I’ve been a resident of Brookhaven most of my life … and I’ve found I’m one of the average citizens who tries to keep my finger on the pulse of the city,” Heath said.
We Are Brookhaven boasts more than 400 people on its mailing list and has more than 650 Facebook “likes” with thousands of people visiting its website each month, according to Heath. “I’ve been accused of having a vendetta.” Instead, she said, she just wants a seat at the table where her concerns are heard.
Heath’s major concerns, and concerns of other We Are Brookhaven members, are about high-density development along Dresden Drive that they believe will bring more traffic to a congested area. They have said they do not want to lose the neighborhood feel of the city where they have purchased homes and are investing in their future.
She stressed she does not oppose the HOAs, but that she wanted to be part of a group that represented her interests. “And, if forming our own group is what is required for average citizens to have a seat at the table, so be it,” she said.