The Brookhaven Planning Commission voted unanimously May 2 to recommend the City Council deny a rezoning request to make way for a self-storage building near the busy corner of North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway.

A rendering of the proposed self-storage building at 2991 Buford Highway. (City of Brookhaven)

Commission members said the five-story self-storage building proposed by TD Self Storage Enterprise on just over one acre at 2991 Buford Highway does not fit in with the city’s plans to create a pedestrian-friendly corridor with mixed-use developments. A used car lot is currently located on the site.

“This is our one opportunity to get it right,” Commissioner John Funny said before the vote. “All eyes are looking to how we develop Buford Highway. This creates a precedent if we approve it.”

TD Self Storage Enterprise is seeking to rezone the property from local commercial (C-1) to manufacturing (M). The proposed self-storage building is 85,000 square feet and has 198 units.

The city’s Community Development Department also recommended denial, stating in its memo to the Planning Commission that the self-storage building does not fit in with the city’s comprehensive plan for Buford Highway because it “does not promote walkability, mixed-used development, connectivity to the Peachtree Creek Greenway, street frontage with buildings closer to the street, hidden parking, pedestrian friendly amenities, reduced curb cuts.”

A used car lot is currently located at 2991 Buford Highway.

Roger Burgin, senior vice president of development at TD Storage, told the commission his company purchased the 2991 Buford Highway for more than $1 million and has the Brookhaven Laundry property next door, zoned manufacturing, under contract.

Last year, the owner of Broohaven Laundry said she was selling the property for $550,000, but Burgin did not reveal how much the land is being sold for now.

Plans, he said, are to build an “iShare” co-working space on the laundry property. The company is also purchasing five acres at the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway with plans to build a hotel there, Burgin said.

Original plans were to build a mixed-use development at 2991 Buford Highway, Burgin said. But because of the limited space and irregular shape of the parcel, the company ran into problems, especially with the parking requirements, he said.

“There is not enough space to build out a mixed-use development,” he said.

Commissioners Funny and Conor Sen suggested Burgin bring back a master plan for everything TD Self Storage wants to build on Buford Highway rather than ask the Planning Commission consider the plans piece by piece. Madeleine Simmons asked if a mixed-use development could be built on the combined used care lot and laundry properties.

Francesca Aragona, an architect with Detroit-based Designhaus Architecture, told commissioners the self-storage building is complementary to the existing multi-family residential developments along Buford Highway and, she said, would be a “major asset to the community.”

“We are not trying to hinder the growth of the city, we are trying to fuel it,” she said.

Several residents also spoke out against the proposed project before the vote.

Arthur Freeman, who served on the Governor’s Commission on Brookhaven, said he and Councilmember Joe Gebbia share a vision for growth along Buford Highway that does not affect residential areas. A self-storage building does not fit that vision, he said.

“Let’s find a more suitable use for this property than to put other people’s belongings,” he said.

Betsy Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway board, spoke on behalf of her group. The Greenway, expected to break ground this fall, runs along Buford Highway.

She said a more reasonable use for this piece of property is a bike shop and suggested self-storage buildings be built on the I-85 access road instead.

Marian Liou, founder of We Love BuHi, said she lives less than a mile from the proposed development.

“This proposal runs contrary to the community vision [for Buford Highway],” she said. That community vision is an understanding the corridor is to re-imagine Buford Highway “for people and not for their stuff.”

Added Jerry Cooper, chair of the Pine Hills Civic Association’s zoning committee, “The sun is beginning to rise on the city of Brookhaven and without denigrating the property owner and the architect, this proposal is a waste of the land.”

Cooper said with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta building its massive campus around the corner on North Druid Hills Road and Emory University’s purchase of Executive Park and already expanding into Corporate Square with tech and science businesses, a self-storage facility is not good for Buford Highway.

Burgin countered that pharmaceutical representatives could easily store drugs in the safe self-storage building because they can no longer legally store them in their homes. Aragona added that tech start-ups traditionally need storage space.

The city is currently undertaking a citywide zoning rewrite that will include an overlay district for Buford Highway. Right now there is no Buford Highway overlay district.

TD Self Storage is a company formed by Greenville, S.C.-based JHM Hotel Group that is aiming to own 100 self-storage facilities, according to SpareFoot Storage Beat.

The proposed project now goes to the City Council on May 22.

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