Months after rejecting a similar resolution, the Brookhaven City Council voted to approve a resolution that under Georgia law would allow the city to redevelop “blighted” areas of the community.
The council passed the resolution, which states that one or more “pockets of blight” exist in the city, during a Tuesday meeting. Passing this resolution is a prerequisite for the city to exercise its powers under the state’s Urban Redevelopment Law, which allows cities to redevelop areas that might be under-utilized or dilapidated and to create an Urban Redevelopment Authority to help implement the redevelopment.
The council previously rejected a similar resolution at a November 2021 meeting after multiple residents expressed concern over the resolution’s effect on the city’s eminent domain powers and how the city would go about designating areas as “blighted.” Residents also expressed concerns about how redevelopment might affect small businesses or the unique cultural characteristics of areas such as Buford Highway. No one spoke in public comment during the Tuesday meeting.
City Attorney Chris Balch said that the resolution would not give the council any authority that it did not already have. According to the law, the city or Urban Redevelopment Authority would not be able to acquire property through eminent domain unless that property would be used for public use.
“Urban Redevelopment Authorities are about public private partnerships. They are not unilateral agencies that go out and do projects,” Balch said. “They have that authority, they have that power, but primarily, they’re designed to work with the development community and with private property owners to create opportunities to take hold of underutilized property and make it more productive.”
Councilmember John Funny said he believed an Urban Redevelopment Authority could give the city more of a say in the kind of redevelopment it wanted to see, including requiring more affordable housing if necessary.
“We hear that we need more affordable housing, and this is one way we’re going to really try to bring more,” Funny said. “That’s just one example … There are several things that we want to utilize to enhance and protect the quality of living here within the city of Brookhaven.”
The next steps for the council will be to decide which areas could be considered for redevelopment. Council members received a draft map during the meeting which highlighted three possible areas: an area around Buford Highway, an area around Peachtree Road, and the area around Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“You’re entitled to add to that map or deduct from that map as your judgment sees fit,” Balch said to the council. “This is simply a starting place based on the designated areas that already exist.”
Balch said the city will hold public meetings so that residents can give their input on the process. A city spokesperson did not respond in time for publication to questions about when those meetings would be.