The Brookhaven City Council at its March 26 work session agreed all projects proposed within the newly adopted Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District should be reviewed by a professional architect to ensure aesthetic standards are met.

Oglethorpe University campus. (Oglethorpe University)

Plans are to put out a request for proposal for an architect to review proposed projects in the Overlay District once a clear path is defined by the council on what the architect will be doing, explained Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin. The Overlay District includes Peachtree Road between Bellaire Drive and Ashford-Dunwoody Road and also the Dresden Drive area.

The Overlay District rewrite approved in January created architectural design standards for buildings and standards for streetscapes in three new Peachtree Road districts. The council agreed later to hire a professional architect to review aesthetics for any proposed project to ensure quality construction in the area considered the heart of the city.

“The current PR districts have architectural standards but they are subjective and can be implemented by staff. The code doesn’t have the pretty things you’re looking for,” Ruffin said.

The council agreed all projects should be reviewed by the future architect and also agreed if an applicant disagreed with the architect’s recommendations, the council would hear the appeal. Who will pay for the architect — the developer or the city — is still to be determined.

Councilmember Bates Mattison, who was the lone “no” vote against the Overlay District rewrite because he said it eliminated the public process for rezoning proposals, suggested the city hear a presentation from the Brookhaven Peachtree Community Alliance on what kind of aesthetics should be included in the Overlay District. The mayor and council are not architects and cannot adequately describe what it is they want from such a professional, he said.

“The design standards and update we did … we’ve allowed by right. But the devil is in details,” he said. “We need someone who really can bring design aesthetic input to the developer other than just what the developer submits based on the law we have on the books.”

Councilmember Linley Jones said she would like to see an influence of Oglethorpe University and its notable granite facade incorporated into designs of buildings within the Overlay District as it has been in the city’s parks.

“We don’t want to be kitsch,” she added. “On other hand, we’ve incorporated elements in our parks and in our signage … without going that far.”

Gebbia and Park agreed the “Oglethorpe theme” was a good one to include in the Overlay District.

“Not a predominate theme, but a highlight,” Gebbia said. “We definitely see that look in our parks … and maybe when we redo the MARTA station. I also want to make sure when we do this we leave room for originality and creativity.”

Mayor John Ernst said the developer should pay the architect’s fees to review the plans because they no longer have to cover costs associated with community meetings that were required as part of rezoning requests prior to the Overlay District rewrite.

Other council members asked for more feedback from Ruffin on fees architects charge before making a final decision.