The Dunwoody Development Authority granted a tax break worth up to $2.9 million to a retail development that has drawn some criticism from residents after developers drained a stormwater management pond on the property popular with geese and other wildlife.

The development authority approved the tax abatement, which runs for 10 years, for Branch Properties’ Perimeter Marketplace in the form of a bond resolution during its Sept. 17 meeting. That bond must be validated by the DeKalb County Superior Court before it becomes official, which will most likely take place in mid-October, city Economic Development Director Michael Starling said.

Perimeter Marketplace is under construction at the corner of Meadow Lane and Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The 10-acre property once had a stormwater management pond and restaurants and is planned to have a grocery store with restaurant and retail space.

An illustration of the Perimeter Marketplace mixed-used project. (Special)

Starling said the development authority usually gives tax breaks to office and commercial developments that create more jobs, but the Perimeter Marketplace project also has public use benefits that led to the approval.

“There was certainly a lot more debate, which is always good to see,” Starling said. “This is really a public policy decision they are making on behalf of the community.”

The Center for Economic Research and Development at Georgia Tech conducted a fiscal impact analysis on the project, which Starling said is part of the development authority’s tax abatement process.

Branch would spend about $4.5 million in public infrastructure as part of Perimeter Marketplace, including a road connection from Meadow Lane to Ashwood Parkway and construction of a portion of the long-planned Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail, Starling said. The trail for cyclists and pedestrians is intended to connect Dunwoody MARTA riders to their jobs in Perimeter Center. It was approved as part of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ trail system master plan in 2014.

“When this is done, it’s going to be a much more walkable, urban-style development, even though it is a grocery store with a lot of parking,” Starling said. “There’s going to be restaurants along the exterior side, so you’re not really going to see all that parking.”

The project is expected to create 370 jobs with average annual wages of nearly $36,000, according to the report. The study also says the project would create 68 new households in DeKalb County, including 12 in the city.

The tax break is based on the amount the property is worth, which is estimated to be $45 million, Starling said. Branch will start the first year with a higher tax break, which would decrease over the 10-year period.

Some residents balked at the project after a stormwater management pond on the site was drained in August in favor of the planned parking lot. They said the pond was a natural oasis in the heart of an area without much green space left.

The stormwater management pond off of Ashford-Dunwoody Road at the intersection of Meadow Lane has been drained. (Erin Schilling)

Starling said the development authority discussed the pond as an asset to the area’s environment but ultimately looked at it as stormwater infrastructure.

“They felt confident that what was being replaced was actually going to be a better alternative because they are putting the stormwater infrastructure underground now,” Starling said.

Construction on the project started after the development authority approved an inducement resolution, which is the first step of the tax abatement process that states the authority is willing to work with the developer on an agreement. The bond resolution approved on Sept. 17 is the final step before it goes to the court.