The relatively new city of Brookhaven began May 15 to form a long-term vision for its future. And the city asked residents to take charge of the planning process.
A public Visioning Workshop for the city’s Comprehensive Plan 2034 was held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, and several residents turned out to provide input in several ways. City officials made it clear that resident input was the driving force to the plan.
Citizen engagement is “making sure that where the city is going is based on a foundation of where the community wants it to go,” said Amanda Hatton of Jacobs Consulting, which is working with the city on the planning process. “It’s the foundational element of the comprehensive plan.”
According to the city timetable, the information that was gathered will be assimilated and rolled out at a public hearing on June 9 at Brookhaven City Hall. A City Council public hearing will be held in August, and the formal Comprehensive Plan 2034 is scheduled to be adopted on Oct. 21.
The emphasis on community input was received warmly by at least one person.
“More than needed” was how resident Holly Snow described the process. “(Engagement) has to be a high priority for the city for continued success.”
She added that there needs to be a “hard-wired” mechanism for communication between Brookhaven, which became a city in December 2012, and nearby Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.
The two-hour session May 15 allowed attendees to give input in two ways. One was by writing suggestions on wall posters, which had such themes as “Our Threats” and “Our Opportunities.”
The other was by participating in groups that shifted among three category areas, which were aimed at elicting suggestions for such things as gateway areas into the city, commercial development, and trail networks.
Also, a question and answer session was held.
The plan that emerges will be guiding the development of a city that is overwhelmingly residential, and largely white and under 40 years of age.
Data supplied at the workshop showed that 59 percent of the city’s land use is single-family residential, and 12.6 percent is multi-family residential. About 70 percent of the population is white, and 25.8 percent of the population of 49,222 (per 2010 Census) is 25-34 years old.
So it’s understandable that some of the feedback that emerged concerned livability factors.
One resident said the city has a “beautiful canopy of trees … I think we need to preserve that. Once those things are cut down, we can’t get that back.”
Assistant City Manager Susan Canon replied that reviewing the tree ordinance “is on the radar screen.”
Hatton noted that comprehensive plans are required by state law, and that a short-term, five-year “work program,” which would conclude in 2019, is also mandatory. A new work plan must be formulated when the current one expires.
Another area that the comprehensive plan could touch on is redevelopment. With just 2.7 percent of the city’s land labeled undeveloped, there is “significant” redevelopment potential, Hatton said.
Brookhaven residents also can take a survey on the comprehensive plan on the city website (www.brookhavenga.gov). Also, there is a special email address for plan input: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Said resident Gayle Sherlag, “There should be more opportunities for public input. It’s a great opportunity to make the city a more livable one.”