After a marathon 3.5 hour meeting, the Brookhaven Planning Commission voted unanimously to defer for 30 days taking action on the MARTA rezoning request needed for a proposed expansive mixed-use development at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe station on Peachtree Road.
The commissioners said they wanted several more answers from MARTA and Brookhaven City Center Partners, the developers for the project, on such issues as traffic mitigation and phasing of the project. Commissioners said they also wanted more time to digest and combine last-minute conditions made by city staff, MARTA and community members. The next meeting is set for Oct. 5.
Amanda Rhein, Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development and Real Estate for MARTA, said the commission’s decision was disappointing because MARTA is ready to move forward on the “milestone” project.
“But I think the request is reasonable and appreciate the opportunity to work out issues with staff and the community,” she said.
The proposed mixed-use development at the Brookhaven-Oglehtorpe station that borders Apple Valley Road, Dresden Drive and North Druid Hills Road includes a 125-room hotel, 547 residential units, nearly 56,000 square feet in retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space as well as small town center park on an approximate 15-acre site.
MARTA wants to used the massive parking lot that sits mostly empty to build the mixed-use development as a way to boost ridership and raise revenue.
The meeting was standing room only at Brookhaven City Hall with many people wearing red shirts to show their opposition to the project.
Mickey Roberts, who wore a red shirt to show his opposition to the project, said after the meeting he was pleasantly surprised to learn during the meeting that MARTA appeared to be agreeing with much of the requests made by the Fernwood Park Homeowners Association — a group of 72 residences located across Apple Valley Road from the proposed project.
“They really seemed … for the most part to accept our conditions,” he said. “In Fernwood, we’re all really worried about the traffic … but they say they will meet all guidelines.”
Among the requests the Fernwood HOA made to MARTA as part of its conditions to support the project, and that were agreed to by MARTA, include installing a sound barrier next to the planned food court to protect the neighborhood from noise and that there be no music after 10 p.m.
The HOA and other residents also wanted more specific design plans for the proposed eight-story office building, standing at 125 feet and fronting Peachtree Road, that they say will likely become the “iconic image of Brookhaven.”
Jessica Hill, attorney for the project, said the developers want to build an all-glass office building but that currently that design is not allowed in the Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay District. She said plans are for MARTA to ask for a variance after the rezoning request is approved which will allow for more public input into the project.
“The public will be involved … and the neighborhoods will get another bite at the apple because we will go through the variance process,” Hill said.
MARTA also agreed to conduct a parking study to ensure that 560 parking spaces for MARTA patrons is enough to handle the new development.
Other community demands included wanting more information about sewer capacity.
“We’re not NIMBYs,” said Brookhaven Heights resident Bill Robinson. “We would just like to see this be better. This is an iconic project … and if we do it right, it will be wonderful. If we do it wrong, it will be a 99-year mistake.”