Archives for March 2012

Chase Files Request for Variances

Chase Bank filed a request for multiple variances to be heard at the April 11th meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Chase would like to build a suburban-style bank on part of the old Hastings site.  The variance application and site plan can be found here:

BPCA – Hastings – Chase variance plan 3.15.12

BPCA – Hastings – Chase variance application 3.8.12

Other than the fact it shows a two story building, Chase’s current plan fails to meet the requirements and spirit of the Overlay.  In particular, the proposed building is placed 54′ back from the street/pedestrian zone to allow an access driveway to pass between the building and the Peachtree.  Chase claims that this access driveway serves Kauffman Tire and is a requirement of Kauffman’s lease.  However, the same entity, SDS Real Property Holdings Ltd., owns both the Hastings property and the Kauffman Tire site–and thus the property owner has “created its own hardship.”  It also should have the power to remove this “hardship.”

If this drive were removed and the building moved forward to front the pedestrian zone and street, it would have a much stronger presence on Peachtree and begin to create the friendly streetscape the Overlay envisions.

In addition to the front yard setback, Chase is asking for 21 more parking spaces than allowed under the Overlay (38 spaces vs. the 18 allowed).  As you can see on the plan, about 90% of the site would be pavement.  This seems unnecessarily large, especially given customers’ move to the convenience of on-line banking, and creates adverse environmental effects (heat island generation, storm run-off).

Without site plan changes, Chase’s plan would be a serious retreat from Overlay Zoning District principles, and thus BPCA is compelled to vigorously oppose the request for variances.

Hines Traffic Study

Hines submitted this traffic study to DeKalb County as part of their permit filing.

Trip Generation Study – Ashford at Brookhaven 3-23-12

Hines Files for Variance

The Hines Co. has filed a variance request to reduce the public sidewalk width along Dresden in front of their project from 10′ to 8′.  The request will be heard at the Zoning Board of Appeals on April 11th at 1 PM.

The BPCA supports this request.  The Hines Co. has been cooperative in meeting Overlay requirements, and has put considerable effort into creating a pedestrian-friendly streetscape along Dresden.  As part of this, they have incorporated parallel parking spaces along Dresden per Overlay guidelines.  Parallel parking helps slow down through-car traffic and creates a barrier between faster-moving cars and pedestrians, making pedestrians feel safer.

The inclusion of parallel parking spaces means giving up some property to make a wider street right-of-way. This, in turn, pushes back the building face or crunches the space between street edge and building face where the sidewalk and plant strip must go (“pedestrian zone”).  Hines does not have room on the site to move the building back further, and feels they cannot condense the building more:  thus they’ve requested the variance.

The required 10′ wide sidewalk is important where streetfront retail exists; in this case, we have streetfront residences, and pedestrian traffic will not be as dense as in front of retail.  Thus we are comfortable with the 8′ width, given that Hines is voluntarily providing parallel parking to meet Overlay guidelines.

The Hines Co. provided the following updated plan and elevations to support their variance request.

Site Plan SP-01- Ashford at Brookhaven – 3-23-12 – CORRECTED

Elevation A4-01- Ashford at Brookhaven – 3-23-12

Elevation A4-02- Ashford at Brookhaven – 3-23-12

Elevation A4-03- Ashford at Brookhaven – 3-23-12

Savi Variance Approved

Savi’s request for variance was approved at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Weds., March 14th, despite recommendations of denial from the DeKalb County Planning Dept. and BPCA, as well as opposition from the Board of Appeals member who represents the Brookhaven area.  This means Savi can obtain a building permit as long as they present private parking agreements that satisfy the parking requirements.

While we all love Savi and what it brings to the neighborhood, BPCA continues to be concerned about the parking shortage this plan creates as well as the precedent of new construction in the Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay District with parking allowed between the building and the street (even though it will be covered by the building’s second floor.)  This will not be a safe or comfortable area for pedestrians.

Time will tell as to its appropriateness in the Overlay district.  We are open to being proven wrong.  But we fear Savi’s expansion per the submitted plan will add up to less than its promise, will make for a confusing and congested parking situation, and even that it will create a difficult business problem for Savi’s owner given the sales density (especially on the second floor) that will be needed to support the new construction costs.

For another take on this and more details, see this article from the Brookhaven Patch.

MARTA Station

Kaleidoscope scene

Kroger Meeting Report, 3/6/12

Representatives from several area neighborhood groups and the Brookhaven Peachtree Community Alliance  (BPCA) met with Weingarten  yesterday, and the outcome of the meeting was disappointing.  Our primary objective for Cherokee Plaza is to get landscaping / street frontage improvements (i.e. wider, safer sidewalks).  The Kroger expansion is a lesser concern.

We believe that the extent and amount of investment of  the Kroger expansion should require Overlay  Ordinance compliance on the landscaping / streetscape issues.   In separate meetings with Weingarten and Kroger, both  have said that these improvements are either not their responsibility or there is no money for such improvements.

If DeKalb Co requires such improvements, they can figure out who is responsible and somehow divide the financial responsibility.

The only negative outcome for  Overlay compliance would be that Kroger and Weingarten would  spend more money  now, a relatively small investment considering the cost of the Kroger expansion and the value to Weingarten. However, the negative outcome for Brookhaven will be felt for  probably 30 years  (the Kroger lease term)  if these improvements are not required  with this improvement.

Beyond this specific situation, the message that we consistently and unequivocally send to property owners and developers is that  Overlay  compliance and achieving the vision of the LCI study is  a non-negotiable commitment of the community and DeKalb County government.

Cherokee Plaza is  the oldest development in Brookhaven with a long history of providing commercial services to area residents. However, it is a relic of an age of strip commercial development that the Brookhaven LCI study recommendations and the Overlay has purposely sought to transform to a better alternative for the community’s future.  Situated in the heart of Brookhaven and  being the first commercial property to encounter driving north on Peachtree from Atlanta’s Buckhead, a new  Overlay compliant streetscape will not only greatly enhance our community, it will serve as a model for future development along the Peachtree corridor and be a symbol of Brookhaven’s and DeKalb County’s future.


Billboard Update 3/8/12

A neighbor actively fighting the billboard just received a letter from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who had announced at his Ashford Park Town Hall Meeting that he would meet with representatives of Action Outdoor Advertising.  The letter states:

….my staff and I recently met with representatives of AOA to discuss whether it could be moved to another location.  However, another standard billboard located on Peachtree Road approximately 1,300 feet away is also allowed, per a settlement from a lawsuit, to be converted to an LED billboard.  The owner of that billboard has applied for conversion to an LED billboard, but his request is being held in abeyance by a GA DOT regulation that requires LED billboards to be at least 3,000 feet apart.  The current LED billboard constructed nearby by AOA has pre-empted conversion of the other billboard to an LED billboard.  If AOA removes its billboard, the owner of the other billboard would then have rights to convert it to an LED.  Thus, we are now in the process of contacting the owner to see if he is willing to waive his rights.  Otherwise, removal of the current sign will not help us reach the desired goal.

COMMENT:  The “other billboard” referred to is the one above the Waffle House by Dresden.  Yes, an LED board there would also be unsightly and annoying–let’s get rid of them all!  Short of that, which would you prefer to keep?

Walgreen’s does multi-story!

Walgreen’s started in Chicago with many first-floor drug stores in multi-story buildings.  They’ve grown to prefer their one-story, suburban store because they can put them up quickly and own them themselves.  However, they do very nice new stores in multi-story, mixed-use buildings when required, as this example from Orlando shows.

Walgreen’s in Orlando–note separate entrance to 2nd floor offices

Hines Project Sketches

Here are sketches of Hines’ proposed apartment project on Dresden (click “Hines Co.” in sidebar for more info) as presented at the neighborhood meeting on Feb. 20.  Note that design is still in progress and the “look” may change somewhat before construction.

Hines site plan

Site Plan

Hines pict

Fernwood Circle/Dresden Corner


Ellijay/Dresden Corner

Hines project pict