The search for a new Brookhaven police headquarters and municipal court site is underway. A Buford Highway residential neighborhood, already proposed for a townhome redevelopment, is one of several sites under consideration.
The Ardent Companies is seeking to rezone approximately 15 acres on Bramblewood Drive and two parcels on Buford Highway for a 197-unit townhome development. The rezoning request was given the go-ahead by the Planning Commission at its April 4 meeting and now goes before the City Council.
But the city is also looking at property on Bramblewood Drive to possibly purchase for the police and court building. Funding for the new headquarters is coming from $15 million in special local option sales tax money that was approved by voters in November.
Today, the police department and municipal court rent space at 2665 Buford Highway. Chief Gary Yandura has said the police department is cramped and the department is forced to rent storage space in the city to hold evidence.
In February, the City Council approved spending $200,000 to find an architectural firm to help design a new police department and municipal court headquarters and to find a location for the new building.
Crew Heimer, who lives on Bramblewood Drive just off Buford Highway, spoke during the April 4 Planning Commission meeting to ask why the city was appraising his house when his home is part of an assemblage of 29 homes that The Ardent Companies wants to buy and then tear down for a proposed townhome development. The purchase hinges on the rezoning request being approved.
Heimer said an appraiser came to his house attorney and to some of his neighbors’ homes at the request of the city attorney about two weeks before the April 4 meeting.
“Why does the city want to buy my property?” Heimer asked commissioners.
Neither Planning Commission members nor city staff indicated they were aware the city was looking at Bramblewood Drive property.
In an interview, Heimer said it appeared the city’s “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”
“The appraiser told me the city was looking to buy property for a future police station,” he said.
Neville Allison, director of the Ardent Companies, said he was unaware the city was also looking at property on Bramblewood Drive. He declined further comment.
Some residents questioned whether there was a conflict of interest for the city to be looking at property to buy while the same property was also being considered by city officials for a possible rezoning.
Communications Director Burke Brennan said the Bramblewood Drive property is one of many sites the city is looking at for the police and municipal court building. He added there was no conflict of interest because the city is not obstructing the rezoning process.
“It’s not a conflict of interest for the Community Development Department to do their jobs … while evaluations may be pending on parcels for future acquisition,” Brennan said.
City Manager Christian Sigman said in a brief interview that the free market allows the city to look at all land for sale for potential purchase and that he, as the one in charge of seeking land to buy, is separate from the Community Development Department.