Brookhaven could soon spread its borders even further south of I-85 just weeks after annexing the LaVista Park community. But DeKalb County officials are fighting back against the snowball effect and are asking the state to block the city’s newest annexation proposal.
The property owner of 2601 North Druid Hills Road is seeking annexation into the city to make way for a developer’s plan to build hundreds of luxury apartments and a hotel at the busy corner of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff roads. Not only that, but the owners of eight other commercial parcels near the intersection are joining the annexation request that would add some 30 acres of real estate to the city’s tax rolls. The possibility of losing more land and tax revenue to Brookhaven is frustrating county officials.
“We are concerned … based on a variety of issues,” DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader said. “This is an area where we could lose our tax base.”
The DeKalb County Commission voted Jan. 7 to file an objection to the city’s newest annexation proposal with the state Department of Community Affairs, the agency charged with handling such disputes. How the objection could impact the city’s scheduled February vote on the annexation and development is unclear at this time.
In December, Brookhaven annexed the historic LaVista Park community located south of Executive Park after residents secured enough signatures to bypass a referendum. The annexation included mostly residential property and raised the city’s population by some 2,000. The city’s estimated population before adding LaVista Park was about 54,000.
Shortly after the LaVista Park annexation, Miami-based the Related Group submitted plans to the city to build 6-story buildings with more than 380 apartments, a 7-story hotel with 140 rooms, and a 4-story office and retail building on the nearly 7 acres at 2601 North Druid Hills Road. The project would replace the aging Briarcliff Station where popular Indian restaurant Café Bombay is located and a Tin Roof Cantina neighborhood bar. The parcel also includes a vacant auto repair shop and a deserted car wash. The site is also across the street from the planned new Cross Keys High School.
Related Group has the property under contract to buy from owner Scarlett & Associates. But the developer can only build such a high-density project under Brookhaven’s zoning regulations, hence the annexation request.
Surrounding commercial property owners collectively agreed to join in the annexation request. They include the Target shopping center at 2400 North Druid Hills Road, the QuikTrip at 2375 North Druid Hills Road, the Chick-fil-A at 2334 North Druid Hills Road, a LensCrafters at 2368 North Druid Hills Road, and the Boston Market at 2535 Briarcliff Road. There are currently no plans to redevelop any of those sites, according to the Related Group.
Rader said among the biggest issues about the annexation request is the county’s responsibility to protect the interests of those living in the unincorporated area who may be impacted by new development.
“By annexing into Brookhaven, they have constrained the vested stakeholders … on the other side of the line,” Rader said. “Now they have no representation on the decisions on what happens there … we are trying to make sure all stakeholders are protected.”
The large chunk of land that could become part of Brookhaven is just down the road from the multibillion-dollar expansions of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University at the North Druid Hills and I-85 interchange. City leaders have said they envisioned the expansions to spark redevelopment throughout the area.
The Related Group intends to target its new luxury apartments to employees of CHOA and Emory moving to the area.
Councilmember Joe Gebbia, whose district includes CHOA and Emory, said recently he is constantly fielding calls from property owners interested in being annexed into Brookhaven.
The controversial Vista Grove cityhood initiative is expected to be debated again in the General Assembly this year. The city’s map would include all the properties at currently seeking to come into Brookhaven.
“The mode is [property owners] would rather deal with Brookhaven, a known entity,” Gebbia said.