A controversial mixed-use development on booming Dresden Drive got the green light from the Brookhaven City Council at its Jan. 24 meeting with construction slated to begin this fall.
The council voted unanimously to rezone the slightly more than 3 acres of property where the DeKalb County tag office is currently located to make way for a mixed-use development named Dresden Village. The development includes four stories of apartments over one story of retail fronting Dresden Drive, a 6-story parking deck, seven for-sale townhouses along Caldwell Drive and the Dixie Moon restaurant from local resident and renowned Atlanta chef Scott Serpas.
“We have to provide a fair hearing. This is not mob rule,” said Councilmember John Park, who made the motion to approve rezoning request. “We have to follow the law. This has been a tough one. I know I’ve made a lot of people unhappy, but I know in my heart of hearts I’ve done my job.”
Park explained that despite the residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding Dresden Drive and many of whom have spoken out against the project, the developers for the project met all the required city ordinances and codes. City staff and the Planning Commission also recommended approval of the project.
“Personally … as a neighbor I don’t like it, but at same time the applicant does have rights for the property,” Park said.
After the vote, many of the some 100 people in attendance, many wearing red shirts to show opposition to the development, stormed out of the council chambers, some calling the council members “traitors.”
Kathy Veitch said she was disappointed the council ignored many people in the community who requested it deny the project.
“This is really a sad day in Brookhaven,” she said. “We see that developers trump individual rights and citizens’ rights. It’s all about the money.”
J.R. Connolly, CEO of Connolly Investment & Development, developers for Dresden Village, said after the vote he was excited to move forward with the “right project” for the area located near the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA station that will complete the “pedestrian experience” planned for the Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District.
Scott Serpas, who spoke in favor of the project, said he knew it was a “tough decision” for the council and said it was also tough for him because as a Brookhaven resident he knows many people who oppose the development.
“But I’ve been dealing with this [trying to build Dixie Moon] for five years and J.R. did the best he could to make compromises,” he said. “I’m glad I hung in there.”
Many spoke out against the project at Tuesday’s meeting, saying what they have said for nearly a year after the development was first proposed — that the density was too much for the two-lane Dresden Drive surrounded by single-family neighborhoods.
They also said the development did not fit the Dresden Drive “village feel” people wanted and that the addition of a 5th story would create a “concrete canyon” along with other apartment complexes on the popular road, namely Rosewood and @1377, and that the already busy area will only become more congested with traffic.
“The level of density does not work on Dresden Drive,” said Karen Dernavich. “They have not brought their A-game. How many bites at the apple are we going to give them?”
Several people did speak in favor of the project as well.
“Dresden Drive is a destination. This project is in line with that,” said Neville Allison.
The developers said their dozens of meetings with residents led to a better project that included several revisions to the site plan. In December, Connolly said they were lowering the density from 194 apartments to 169, going from about 60 units per acre to 45 units per acre. Connolly also added 10 for-sale townhouses with rooftop decks, but last week reduced the number to seven townhouses to make room for more green space.
In the very first proposal from nearly a year ago, developers were seeking to build 206 apartments with no for-sale townhouses.
Commercial square footage approved for the project is right at 20,000 square feet. There are 473 parking spots planned for the entire development and about 180 will be open to the public for shopping and for Dixie Moon diners.
Construction is expected to begin this fall and take two years to complete. The parking garage structure will not be started until the DeKalb tag office is relocated and a timeline for that has not been determined.