Brookhaven broke ground on the Peachtree Creek Greenway at the end of 2018 to cap off a busy year. The city purchased two properties on Buford Highway as “strategic” buys for future redevelopment, an overhaul of the city’s zoning code was adopted, and a new tourism agency and the Economic Development Department took up major city branding initiatives. Voters also approved a $40 million parks bond.
$40M parks bond approved by voters
A $40 million parks bond was approved Nov. 7 by 60 percent of the voters in a landmark decision that harkened back to the 2012 cityhood vote. A Yes for Brookhaven Parks campaign headed up by a former mayor and former interim city manager spent more than $13,000 to urge voters to approve the bond. An opposition effort surfaced in the final days of the campaign, with an anonymous mailer and an anonymous website. Three members of a parks funding task force also publicly opposed the parks bond. The parks bond comes with an average $98.34 a year property tax increase to the homeowner with a home assessed at about $466,000, according to city officials. But city officials said other taxation changes essentially eliminate the tax increase. The parks bond will be paid off over 30 years.
New zoning code approved
The city became the first in the region to approve mandatory citywide inclusionary zoning in its zoning ordinance to address a lack of affordable housing. New residential multi-unit developments will be required to include 10 percent “workforce housing” units based on federal housing numbers. The new code also created a new Buford Highway Overlay District and new mixed-use districts while also making provisions for “tiny houses” or backyard cottages. Approval of allowing variances attached to rezoning requests to skip approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals and go only through the Planning Commission and City Council was another major change adopted in the new code. The new code also banned short-term rentals like Airbnb from most residential areas.
Alcohol ordinance controversy, lawsuit
A new alcohol code went into effect at the start of 2018 that prohibited numerous Buford Highway venues with a DJ, dance floor or stage from selling alcohol on Sundays and requiring them to pay a new $100,000 alcohol license fee. Last call was also rolled back from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and to midnight on Sundays. Three venues sued the city in federal court, alleging among other things, discrimination. They said it was unfair to allow the Pink Pony strip club to stay open until 4 a.m. due to a 2014 “exit agreement” with the city. That lawsuit is pending, but a judge’s initial ruling stating the different hours were unfair led the city to enforce earlier last call at the Pink Pony, too. The City Council eventually voted to eliminate the $100,000 fee.
Breaking ground on Peachtree Creek Greenway
Shovels went into the dirt to officially break ground on the first section of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road. Money to pay for construction is coming from a $12.4 million revenue bond. The bond is being paid off using additional hotel-motel tax revenue created by a tax increase. The Greenway is a 12-mile multiuse trail that is planned to connect Brookhaven to Chamblee, Doraville and to Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb. The Greenway is also expected to connect to PATH400 in Buckhead and eventually to the Atlanta BeltLine.
CHOA continues medical campus expansion
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta continues to build out its medical campus at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road. The Center for Advanced Pediatrics building opened and construction of a parking deck and two office buildings along the I-85 frontage road is now underway. Plans are to relocate CHOA’s support staff now working in the existing CHOA office park on Tullie Circle to those buildings when completed. The current office park would then be torn down to make way for a new $1.3 billion hospital expected to begin construction in 2020.
Brookhaven began an aggressive marketing and branding campaign, including buying ads in major sporting event guides and other local and national magazines as city officials try to create a regional and national presence. Large granite monuments were constructed at the city’s borders and the city continued to work with Discover DeKalb to market the Cherry Blossom Festival as a destination event with national music acts.
Fatal shootings shock residents
July’s fatal shooting of a wedding guest at the Capital City Club on the Brookhaven/Buckhead border resulted in four teens facing murder charges and raised serious concerns from residents. Prosecutors held a community meeting and talked of reforming a system of private probation. They also blamed much of the crime on drug gangs. An apparent drug deal gone bad led to a fatal shooting in November at the Mille Brookhaven apartments with one suspect charged with murder. A triple shooting at Northeast Plaza in August resulted in one death and suspects were believed to have fled to Mexico, according to police.
Buford Highway redevelopment buzz
City officials spent more than $3 million this year to buy two properties on Buford Highway — a shuttered QuikTrip and an abandoned parking lot — as “strategic” buys to guide future redevelopment along the corridor. Each property is less than 1 acre. Ardent Companies and city officials broke off negotiations of a proposed mixed-use development off Buford Highway over a massive tax abatement request and a dispute over defining an affordable housing component. The city offered financial incentives to the DeKalb County School District to construct the new Cross Keys High School on Buford Highway, but school officials went with property the system owns at the former Briarcliff High School site.
Deputy chief resigns amid sexual harassment allegations
Juan Grullon, the former deputy police chief, resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment by a female officer. None of the allegations were proven and an investigation into the complaint was closed without a finding when Grullon agreed to resign. No criminal charges were filed.