A proposed townhome and single-home development at the site of the Boys & Girls Club on North Druid Hills got the OK from the Brookhaven Planning Commission at its Dec. 6 meeting and will now go before the City Council on Dec. 12.
Commissioners voted 4-2 to recommend approval of the application from Ashton Woods to rezone the site from R-75 (single-family residential) to RM-100 (multi-family residential). The vote is a turnaround from the commission’s original vote in October to recommend denial. Following that vote, the developer asked the City Council for more time to work with the community to gain support.
The project originally started as a 74-unit development, was then lowered to 64 units before gaining the Planning Commission’s OK with 59 units. Of the 59 residential, there will also now be eight detached single-family lots and 10 “manor home” units priced in the $300,000 range to address affordability concerns from city officials.
The proposed development has met with much resistance, especially from those living in the nearby the Brookhaven Heights and Brookhaven Fields neighborhood that are essentially split in the middle by the busy North Druid Hills Road.
Some residents living in the neighborhoods argued that townhomes do not fit in with the residential character area studies completed last year by bringing in higher density to mostly single-family home areas.
“You are putting this in … between two neighborhoods. This will change the demeanor of the neighborhood,” said Jen Heath, who lives on Sylvan Circle. “This creates a divider.” Heath pointed to Roxboro Road where single-family homes were once located but now have high-rise towers.
“The minute you start putting in higher density where you know available land will be bought … you damage a community,” she said.
Commissioner Michael Diaz said during the character area studies, the Brookhaven Fields and Brookhaven Heights neighborhoods were considered one neighborhood and asked how the Community Development staff perceived them.
Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin said North Druid Hills Road is considered separate from the neighborhoods and not part of the interior of the neighborhoods. Zoning codes encourage higher density development along corridors, she said.
Some residents also asked the property be zoned RA-8 (single-family residential) that would limit the number of units to eight units per acre, or 49 units. The proposed 59 units is 9.52 units per acre. Some also raised concerns that zoning the property for multifamily use will set a precedent to allow more property along North Druid Hills Road to sell as property values rises, leading to higher density developments.
Commissioner Conor Sen said North Druid Hills Road is a major corridor in the city and because the property is close to the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station, higher density in the area makes sense. He also said he appreciated the developer adding an affordability, or workforce housing, component, as well as single-family homes into the project.
Commissioner John Funny added that North Druid Hills Road is different today than it was 30 to 40 years ago and will continue to change as the city, and metro Atlanta, continue to grow and more people move to the area.
“This application lives within the spirit of a comprehensive plan and character area. I don’t think this will be a situation where it destroys the character of our community,” Funny said.
Commissioner Bert Levy said the overriding message of the character area study was to protect, preserve and maintain single-family neighborhoods. “While staff has labeled [North Druid Hills Road] a corridor, I don’t see how this rezoning serves that goal” of the character area study, he added.
Sen shared that he is 36 years old and has many friends wanting to buy a home. In Brookhaven, though, townhomes are selling for $700,000 and single-family homes in neighborhoods are selling for close to $900,000. “Very soon every home in the city will sell for $1 million … and that’s not the kind of community I want to live in,” he said.
Chair Stan Segal said he did not like the RM-100 zoning and was “embarrassed” to call the $300,000 units “affordable.” But, he said, these townhomes are single-family residential.
But the zoning is still for multi-family use, Levy added.
The development will be a gated community. Ashton Woods would also donate land to the city and DeKalb County to facilitate the inclusion of a right-hand turn lane onto North Druid Hills Road from Briarwood Road.
The Boys & Girls Club is moving out of its current home in Brookhaven this month into a larger space in Chamblee.