A Brookhaven developer said his company plans to build a 226-unit townhome complex off Buford Highway with units priced in the high $200,000 range as a way to fill a need for more affordable housing in the city and to also help transform the international corridor.

Neville Allison of The Ardent Companies with a rendering of the proposed townhomes to be built on Bramblewood Drive and Buford Highway during a community meeting at the Briarwood Park Recreation Center. The Ardent Companies hopes to start construction of the 226-unit complex in April. (Dyana Bagby)

The Ardent Companies is seeking to rezone a 17-acre tract of land that includes 30 single-family houses on Bramblewood Drive and two residential properties fronting Buford Highway to make room for a 226-unit townhome development. The development is estimated at 12.84 units per acre.

Neville Allison, director of The Ardent Companies, told about 10 residents at a Dec. 4 community meeting that his company’s proposed development is one of the first new residential developments on Buford Highway.

“I think Buford Highway is exploding,” Allison said. He added the city wants Buford Highway to be revitalized which means new development.

But one of the problems, he said, is that new residential construction in the city is typically for luxury townhomes priced in the $500,000 to $700,000 range and “that becomes unaffordable” for some people.

“My standard answer is I want to sell them [townhomes] for as much as I can … but we want to help solve some of the affordable housing issues” in the city, he said.

He noted the proposed project does not help low-income people but rather will be targeted toward people such as a police officer and a teacher who are married and each make $50,000 a year for a combined $100,000 annual income.

Mayor John Ernst and the City Council formed an Affordable Housing Task Force last year to come up with recommendations on how to deal with gentrification, especially along Buford Highway. The task force issued its recommendations in July and the city is currently undergoing a complete zoning rewrite in which affordable housing is expected to be addressed. The zoning rewrite is slated to be completed by mid-2018.

Allison said he has spoken with the mayor and City Council as well as city staff about his project and knows the city’s concern about affordable housing. This proposed project is expected to have smaller 3-story units measuring 1,200 square feet to 1,300 square feet that can be sold for a lower price, he said.

The Ardent Companies has or is building four other townhome developments in the city, including several near Buford Highway, that are priced in the $400,000 to $700,000 range.

Allison said his company has contracts with 29 individuals on 32 parcels and plans are to close on the property in April and start building soon after. The project must first go to the Planning Commission on Jan. 3 and then to City Council on Jan. 23. The project also needs a zoning variance to build the buildings closer together and plans are to take the plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals in February to meet the planned April closings, explained Carl Westmoreland, attorney for the project.

Full build-out of the complex would take about four years, Allison said.

Bramblewood Drive, off Buford Highway, where a developer plans to replace all existing single-family homes with a townhome project. (Google Maps)

Plans are also to make the new townhome development a gated community, Allison said. He clashed with the City Council recently when a majority of the council voted to prohibit his company’s new development on Pine Cone Lane from becoming a gated community as part of an effort to create connectivity throughout the city. The council reversed its vote after learning their vote was likely not legal but city staff is currently working on a zoning ordinance amendment to prohibit new gated communities without a special land use permit.

A Google Earth image of Bramblewood Drive. Cross Keys High School is located at the back of the property.

Concerns about stormwater drainage were raised by several residents living across from the proposed development in the Jackson Square Condominiums. According to some residents, during heavy rains stormwater drains under Buford Highway and into the complex where it flows into the Peachtree Creek Greenway and floods the parking lot.

Allison explained there is currently no stormwater management where the single-family homes are now standing. With the new development, detention ponds and other stormwater maintenance will be installed as part of city, state and federal development guidelines that should eliminate any stormwater concerns.

“The idea is to have stormwater systems throughout the site … that will have controlled and clean runoff rather than a sheet of water,” Allison said.

There are plans for private pocket parks within the development, but Allison said no study has been done to determine how many trees will have to be cut down to make way for the new townhomes. Trees within the 75-foot buffer of a stream on the property will be saved, Allison said.

He also said the city’s tree ordinance requires new trees be planted for those that are cut down and during one of his company’s project, 80 trees were cut down and were replaced with 377 new trees on the property.

Allison said he did not know how many of the 32 homes were rental properties when asked by a resident. He said he would give renters a minimum of 60 days to find a new home.

The Ardent Companies came under fire this summer when residents at the Park Villa apartments off Buford Highway said they were only given 30 days to move out after the complex was sold to make way for luxury townhomes. Mayor Ernst intervened and worked out an extension for the residents to find new places to live.

The Ardent Companies purchased the older complex and successfully got it rezoned to make way for the new development now under construction. At the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing where the rezoning was granted, a couple members expressed their disappointment with Allison that more was not done to let apartment residents know their complex had been sold.

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