The owner of an apartment complex and its residents are opposing a proposed development of a hotel, restaurant and parking deck in Perimeter Center, saying the large-scale project adjacent to their property would hurt the bottom line of the complex and negatively impact the residents’ quality of life.
Troy McMahan of Northwestern Mutual, representing the Flats at Perimeter Place, and some 20 tenants attended the Dunwoody City Council’s Nov. 13 meeting to speak out against Prado Perimeter Center LLC’s proposed development of a 7-story, AC-brand hotel; a 5-story parking deck; and a large restaurant on nearly five acres of mostly parking lot at 121 Perimeter Center West. The new development is planned alongside a 3-story building that houses a SunTrust bank branch and a Tin Lizzy’s restaurant and is adjacent to the complex.
“I am neither anti-development or anti-hotel,” McMahan told the council, “but the design for this site does not take into account the existing Dunwoody residents.” The council was considering on first read a rezoning ordinance and three special land use permits for the proposed project. Second and final read is slated for next month.
McMahan said about 400 people live in the Flats at Perimeter Place at 60 Perimeter Center. Major concerns, he said, include: the parking deck will be located just 33-feet away from residents’ windows and balconies on the south side of the building and would infringe on their privacy, obstruct the city view many tenants currently have, and could also be physically harmful due to noxious fumes from the cars using the parking deck.
Revenue for the complex would also be hurt by the new development, McMahan said. The apartment has been in Dunwoody for 11 years and is valued at $70 million by DeKalb County. Estimated loss in value due to lost rent for the 86 units facing the parking deck is estimated at $3 million to $4 million, he said, and a lost tax revenue to the county of an estimated $50,000 to $65,000 a year.
Other concerns McMahan cited included traffic increase caused by the new hotel, bright lights from the parking deck and hotel shining onto the apartment building, and shading of the building caused by the parking deck’s height. The apartment complex owner hired attorney Greg Hecht, who sent the mayor and City Council a letter on Nov. 1 stating that approving the project is an “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable use of the city’s zoning power” and notes the complex “has been a large contributor to the tax base of Dunwoody for over a decade.”
The Prado Perimeter Center development has run into other problems. A vote on the rezoning and SLUPS were twice deferred by the Planning Commission before the commission recommended approval the rezoning and two of the three SLUPS.
Current zoning of the property allows for two stories. The property is included in the recently approved Perimeter Center Overlay district that allows for up to 16 stories as part of a move to place denser development in a specific area of Perimeter Center. The developer is also seeking SLUPS to vary the streetscape requirements now required in the new zoning district that is intended to be more pedestrian and bike friendly.
Councilmember John Heneghan raised fire safety concerns about the short distance between the parking deck and apartment building. The developer previously received a zoning variance for a smaller setback between the two structures in order to fit the deck onto the property. A city memo states the distance between the parking deck and apartment building is only 20 feet.
Den Webb, the attorney representing Prado Perimeter Center, said he and the developer had not heard from anyone at the Flats at Perimeter Place before Nov. 13 and noted an application for the setbacks with the Zoning Board of Appeals was approved in September. The setback was needed so the deck would only be five stories high, rather than taller, according to Webb.
The footprint of the project is not too large for the 4.7 acres and fits the directive from the city to make this area of Perimeter Center denser, more walkable and taller area that transitions from a suburban to urban environment, Webb said.
The current property also has many sizable trees on the property creating an urban park-like atmosphere. City staff state the proposed development calls for the removal of 63 parking lot trees, including 14 willow oak specimen trees.
“That area has a lot tree canopy now … and is an attractive part of the Perimeter,” Councilmember Terry Nall said.
Webb said all the trees on the site were planted in 1986 when the property was first developed are planted in parking lot islands where the roots of the trees have grown above ground and the asphalt is cracking around them.
“Most of the trees are not really worth preserving,” he said.
Webb said the develop will try to save a 38-inch willow oak at the corner of the Perimeter Center West and Perimeter Center Place at the request of the city, but said the tree sits on top of a 6-foot sewer pipe.
Mayor Shortal closed discussion by asking the developer to mitigate some of the concerns raised by the apartment owner and tenants.
“These are our citizens you are building next to and they are important to us,” Shortal said.