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Posted by on July 30, 2012.

More shops, apartments targeted for downtown area

Construction work at the corner of Dresden Drive and Fernwood Circle in Brookhaven.

Construction work at the corner of Dresden Drive and Fernwood Circle in Brookhaven.

A new mixed-use development and two sizeable apartment complexes are in the works for the heart of Brookhaven.

The owner of the Peachtree Road parcel that was most recently home to Hastings Nature & Garden Center is now in talks with developers, said Kathy Zickert, attorney for the property owner.

Chase Bank had hoped to build a branch at the site. But on June 13, the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals denied Chase’s application for several variances to Brookhaven’s overlay zoning district.

There was strong community opposition to the bank’s proposal because it did not include the appearance and streetscaping called for in the overlay.

Chase asked the county for exceptions to Brookhaven’s overlay zoning requirements, including a request to build the bank 54 feet from the road so the building could continue to share an easement with its neighbor, Kauffman Tire.

One of the overlay’s main requirements is that buildings be constructed no more than 20 feet from the sidewalk. The goal is to make the buildings easier to access on foot, rather than having a parking lot between the building and the sidewalk, as is customary in many suburban strip malls.

Zickert said her client plans to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision to “keep the door open.”

“I’m not really interested in litigating about the denial of variances. The primary purpose is to go back to the community with something they will find acceptable,” she said.

Zickert said without filing an appeal, it would be two years before the property owner could return to the county with another proposal.

The owner is talking with developers about the possibility of building something in the same style as the Village Place development on Dresden Drive.

“We will actively look at other development possibilities and hopefully come up with something everybody will be happy with,” Zickert said.

She said the property owner is interested in a multi-story building close to the road, likely with shops on the bottom floor, as prescribed in the overlay.

“When we’re taking [buildings] down, we have an opportunity to do a better job with it and I think my clients understand that,” Zickert said.

Jack Honderd of the Brookhaven-Peachtree Community Alliance was pleased a development meeting the overlay standards could be in the works.

“That’s what we are trying to do — have people come forward with overlay compliant projects from the start,” Honderd said. “I don’t like to have to be in the business of opposing things. I certainly look forward to seeing the project and meeting them.”

Honderd said the alliance has been pleased with an apartment development by Hines Co., which has taken care to follow the overlay guidelines.

The Hines Co, is building luxury apartments on Dresden Drive between Fernwood Circle and Elijay Drive. According to the alliance, Hines is planning on building 215 units.

According to the alliance, the DeKalb County Planning Department is also reviewing plans for a project called “Alta Brookhaven.” Wood Partners proposes to build 230 apartment units on about three acres between Dresden Drive and Peachtree View. The building would be four stories and would include an internal parking deck, according to the alliance.

Honderd said the organization has recently been on the defensive, working to oppose proposals from national retailers looking to build standard, suburban looking locations rather than altering their designs to fit the overlay.

“We’re just delighted when people come forward with projects that understand or implement the overlay,” he said.

Honderd said he’s optimistic more developers will bring forward projects in the spirit of the overlay zoning.

“We’re taking baby steps now so in 20 years people can look back and say what a wonderful vision the people of Brookhaven had and what a wonderful place they’ve created,” he said.

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