A proposal to build six townhomes near Peachtree Creek and Buford Highway has drawn concerns from Pine Hills residents, who say it could increase flooding and doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood. Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook said the area needs special protection due to flooding concerns and held up the proposal in the April 25 zoning committee.
“It’s an extraordinarily environmentally sensitive piece of property,” Shook said.
Some Pine Hills residents have called for the lot to be preserved and sold to the Peachtree Creek Greenway or donated to the neighborhood to be used as greenspace. The owners wrote in the rezoning application that the site plan includes an easement for a 10-foot multiuse path for a potential connection to the Peachtree Creek Greenway, a park envisioned to run along the north fork of the Peachtree Creek and connect Brookhaven to Chamblee and Doraville as well as to Buckhead’s PATH 400 and eventually to the Atlanta BeltLine. Construction on the first mile of the path, within Brookhaven, is expected to start this year.
“In all honesty, the property deserves to be rezoned,” Cheryl Faerber said.
The 1.6-acre property is located at 2621 Shady Valley Drive near Buford Highway. The developers are requesting the property be rezoned from single-family residential to multifamily to build the townhomes. There is a large townhome development across the street from the proposed development site, but most of the Pine Hills neighborhood, which is partly in the city of Brookhaven, is single-family houses. A liquor store and storage building are also nearby.
Nelson Faerber, the developer, said the proposed townhome development would provide a “nice transition” between the commercial and single-family uses.
“We believe we actually would improve and be consistent with the character of the neighborhood,” said Nelson Faerber at the April 12 Atlanta zoning review board meeting.
The property is currently undeveloped with many overgrown trees, which would have to be removed for the development. Shook said that it would be a “substantial loss” of trees.
“These are the last remaining trees to the entrance to our neighborhood that provide riparian buffers, light, noise and air pollution protection and stormwater mitigation,” said Melanie Bass Pollard, a resident on the Brookhaven side of the neighborhood.
The site is near the southern entrance to the neighborhood, and the residents say the development would change the entire area.
“The proposal, as currently drawn, dramatically increases the risk of flooding in the area and stands to dramatically alter the gateway to Pine Hills,” Pollard said.
City planning staff and the developer, which is Chattahoochee Home Company, say in the application that the proposal fits the character of the neighborhood. The developer did not respond to an interview request.
“Given that the lot is at the corner of a local street emptying into a major artery, Buford Highway, the townhomes will allow for the continuing growth along the Buford Highway and Cheshire Bridge corridors,” the Department of City Planning wrote in its recommendation that the city boards approve the proposal.
The six townhomes would each have three bedrooms. They are estimated to sell in the range of $500,000 to $800,000 each, according to the application documents.
Shook said he would ask for the case to be deferred at the Atlanta City Council zoning committee April 25 so the proposal could continue to be tweaked. Both the applicant and the neighborhood say they are open to compromise, he said.
“We are a single-family neighborhood. But we’ve supported development all along Lenox Road. We like the mix,” said Nancy Bliwise, the chair of NPU-B and a Pine Hills resident, at the April 12 zoning review board meeting.
Atlanta’s NPU-B voted to recommend the city deny the application due to the concerns about flooding and changing the character of the neighborhood, said Bliwise, who is also a member of the neighborhood association.
“Pine Hills Neighborhood Association has worked for many, many years on the development of that corridor. We don’t oppose development, but want to preserve the character coming into our neighborhood welcoming into Shady Valley Drive,” Bliwise said.
The developers are asking for a 20-foot setback, which the neighborhood association opposes because other developments on Shady Valley Drive within the city of Atlanta have a 40-foot setback, said Jerry Cooper, chair of the PHNA zoning committee.
Residents are concerned the proposal would worsen flooding in the neighborhood by creating more impervious surface, removing trees and being close to the creek. The developers are asking to encroach on the Peachtree Creek stream buffer.
The neighborhood already experiences frequent flooding that is sometimes several inches, residents said.
“Pine Hills has a major flooding problem,” Shook said.
The city is preparing to conduct a study of the flooding to find the problems and recommend fixes, Shook said.
Arthur Freeman, a Brookhaven resident, said he believes there are enough regulatory bodies to control and protect the creek, and is not concerned flooding will increase. He supports the development, he said at the meeting.
The site is currently undeveloped and attracts homeless encampments and littering, Nelson Faerber said.
Pollard is concerned the flooding will soon be worse as the large, nearby Isakson Living and Ashton Woods developments are built. The two developments have been noted for their clear-cutting of the land and Ashton Woods’ easement into the city-owned Peachtree Hills Park for a private drainpipe.
“This case, like the Peachtree Hills case, is important as it continues to set precedents throughout the metro area that it is ‘OK’ for developers to build out areas that are not feasible for sustainability,” Pollard said.