Construction of a controversial daycare center at the corner of Clairmont Road and Bragg Street is moving forward after the Brookhaven City Council approved rezoning for the new development at its May 28 meeting.

The council’s approval to rezone slightly more than 1 acre at 3702, 3708, 3712 and 3718 Clairmont Road from office institution and residential to just office industrial comes after the developer was forced to withdraw original plans in January.

The new site plan for the daycare center at the intersection of Clairmont Road (at bottom) and Bragg Street includes shrinking the building from 14,000 square feet to 10,344 square feet, having the building front Bragg Street (to the left) with the side of the building facing Clairmont, and building the playground area around the building near Clairmont Road. (City of Brookhaven)

At that time, residents and Planning Commission stated the proposed project of a 2-story, 14,000 square foot building serving some 260 children was too large for the small site.

One resident compared the plan to “trying to stick an 800-pound gorilla in a chicken coop.” Planning Commission Chair Stan Segal said in January when the commissioners voted to recommend denial of the zoning request that the “scale is a self-inflicted wound.”

Rather than take a risk the City Council would vote to deny the rezoning request as the Planning Commission recommended, the developer withdrew its plans from the City Council’s consideration. Had the council denied the rezoning, the developer would have to wait 2 years to submit new plans. By withdrawing the plans, the developer could submit new plans as soon as possible.

New plans were submitted to the city in February to build a 3-story building including a basement, reducing the size to 10,344 square feet and serving no more than 175 children.

“The initial filing was probably too large for the site, especially since it borders residential,” Matt Simonds, representing the applicant, told the council at the May 28 meeting. “That became apparent. So we withdrew.”

But residents living in the adjacent single-family home neighborhoods are still not happy with the revised plans and spoke out at the May 28 meeting.

They reiterated many of the same complaints they had with the original plans. Those include that they believe the project does not fit in with the comprehensive plan for the area and that their residential streets will become less safe due to increased traffic from the daycare center. They also said the current project is still a massive development on a small piece of property.

Matthew Kent, an attorney who lives on Georgian Drive that loops around the planned daycare center, gave a Power Point presentation on behalf of many residents urging the council to deny the request. He said many of the developer’s submitted site plans to the city were “late breaking” and gave residents nearly no time for review.

He also noted that elevation of Georgia Drive changes significantly between the road and the new daycare center and would lead to noise being magnified into residents’ homes.

“No one wants a daycare in their backyard with 175 screaming children playing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he said.

An illustration of the Foundation Academy daycare center to be built at the corner of Clairmont Road and Bragg Street. (City of Brookhaven)

The applicant, Tim Burpee, plans to build a Foundation Academy daycare center at the site because he said there is a strong need for daycare centers in the Brookhaven area. Tentative plans are for the facility to open next summer or fall. He owns other Foundation Academy centers in Warner Robins, Perry, Bonaire and Cornelia

Other site plan changes made include building the facility to front Bragg Street and the side of the building facing Clairmont Road. A surface parking lot with 44 spaces is to be built on the west side of the building.

The playground area is being moved to the front of the property along Clairmont Road. Original plans were to build the playground area along the border of the adjacent residential properties.

The entrance and exit to the daycare center will be on Bragg Street, which upset many nearby residents who said it would encourage families to cut-through their neighborhoods rather than use Clairmont Road.

Engineers for the development said the traffic light at Clairmont Road and Bragg Street would encourage motorists to utilize Clairmont.

The council approved a reduced transitional buffer from 50 feet to 10 feet for the north and west property lines. The developer will also build a 10-foot sidewalk with a 5-foot landscape strip along Clairmont Road as part of the city’s bike and pedestrian plan.

A 5-foot sidewalk with a 2-foot landscape strip is to be built on Bragg Street.

Correction: This story has been updated. It was incorrectly reported the daycare center would have a police officer directing traffic during peak hours. The idea was suggested, but it was not made a condition of the rezoning.