Chase Variance Deferred until June 13

On Wednesday, May 9th, Chase Bank’s request for variances on the Hastings property was deferred for decision until the June 13th meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals.  BZA member Rebecca Chase Williams, not present at the May meeting, requested a deferral  in absentia so she could participate in the decision.  The DeKalb Planning Department recommended “denial” and the BPCA, represented by attorney Linda Dunlavy along with 370 petition signatures and 15 supporters in person, urged the Board to affirm the Planning Department’s recommendation.

Several neighbors from directly behind the Hastings property also attended the hearing to show support for Chase’s variances.  Their thinking was that Chase’s planned development would have a fairly benign impact on their homes, while a higher-density development allowable under the Overlay zoning code could potentially bring more noise or a taller building to the site.

The central issue continues to be moving the proposed building up to the street to create the proper building-pedestrian zone-street relationship envisioned in the Overlay.  Chase’s attorney maintains that the property owner, SDS Real Property Holdings LTD of Miami, FL, (Chase would have a long-term land lease with them) cannot relocate the exit driveway easement that they put on the property. The easement currently serves Kauffman Tire Co., according to Chase’s attorney, and cannot be changed without Kauffman’s permission.  If it could be changed, Chase would have no objection to moving their planned building up to the street in a classic “main street” relationship.

The BPCA maintains that the owner imposed the easement (“created his own hardship”) and should have the ability to alter it (“remove the hardship”).  In the end, the BZA directed Chase’s attorney to obtain a copy of the Kauffman lease and make it available for inspection.  “We can’t make a decision based on a hypothetical reading of a document that we don’t have,” a BZA member stated.

In addition, the BZA asked that the various neighborhood groups meet and try to resolve their different views of the Chase proposal before the June 13 hearing.


Hines Variance Approved

Hines variance request to reduce the public sidewalk along Dresden from 10′ to 8′ was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals yesterday.  BPCA supported this request.  You can read more about this in our earlier posts by clicking on the “Hines Co. (Apartments)” link in the box next to this window.

Hastings/Chase Variance Deferred

At yesterday’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Chase Bank’s pursuit of 3 variances so it can develop a new branch bank on the Hastings property was deferred for 30 days at their request.  DeKalb County Planning Department had recommended “Withdrawal without Prejudice” while producing an analysis that argued for “Denial.”

In this light, Chase asked to defer for 30 days so they could try to bring the plan into conformance with Overlay requirements and community expectations.  They plan to meet with BPCA to determine what changes they can make to comply with the Overlay.  For BPCA’s analysis of the current site plan, see this prior post.

Save the Overlay! Urgent Action!

Please sign this petition if you agree with BPCA’s analysis below.

On Wednesday, May 9th @ 1 PM, Chase Bank’s appeal for variance to DeKalb County’s Board of Zoning Appeals will be heard in the Manuel Maloof Auditorium at 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.  We MUST defeat this request for variance if we want to preserve the vision of the LCI Study and Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay District!

Chase Bank’s variance application to DeKalb County poses a major threat to the vision Brookhavenites created with the LCI Study and Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay District.  The plans submitted for the old Hastings site show a standard-issue suburban-style fast-in/fast-out branch bank which, if permitted, will seal the fate of Brookhaven’s Peachtree Street corridor as a fast food and service strip hospitable only to those in automobiles.  Yes, we currently have McDonald’s, Kauffman Tire and Wells Fargo already developed in that mode.  Do we want to continue and extend that?  Do we want even more car congestion without “total street” design that makes people feel safe walking or biking?

Brookhaven residents said “no” through their public participation in the LCI Study in 2004.  They said they want a Mainstreet feel along Peachtree with a safe pedestrian zone that will encourage people to walk, shop and meet.  We are lucky enough to have a Zoning Ordinance that plans for this.  Now we need to defend it.

Note that we have nothing against Chase Bank–we welcome the choice they bring as a competitor to Wells Fargo, SunTrust, Brookhaven Bank and Ironstone Bank.  We simply want them to be part of a development that honors the spirit and regs of the Brookhaven Peachtree Overlay District.  It is within their power to do this.  See BPCA’s more in-depth discussion of the issues here.

NOTE:  DeKalb Planning Dept. recommends “Withdrawal.”

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