The debate over soccer fields in Brookhaven will now continue into September after the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted defer the issue at its July 26 meeting.

District 1 County Commissioner Elaine Boyer asked for the deferral to have more time to look at the Special Land Use Permit application from the Concorde Fire Soccer Club, which is hoping to build a soccer complex on South Johnson Ferry Road. She said the commission’s time has been tied up in the county’s tough budgeting process.

“I’d like to have the opportunity to meet both with council, walk the property, and I’d like to be able to sit with staff once they’ve actually reviewed these studies and have conversations with them. This gives us as a commission time to sort out these facts,” Boyer said.

The meeting was well attended by supporters of the Concorde Fire Soccer Club, who wore black soccer jerseys, and by opponents of the plan, mostly neighboring property owners, wearing red to show their opposition.

Larry Lord, president of the Concorde Fire Soccer Club, said he was pleased with the commission’s decision to defer his application.

“We were hoping we could have time to work with neighbors to try to come up with an appropriate level of development they could live with,” Lord said.

But opponents of the soccer complex said they were hoping the commission would vote to deny the special land use permit request.

“We’re upset. We were hoping we would get … closer to not having a soccer field in the middle of 1,000 homes,” said Kathy Baumgartner, a resident of Westcott Court.

The Board of Commissioners meeting followed on the heels of a July 17 community meeting between Concorde Fire Soccer Club officials and area residents.

Kathy Zickert, an attorney representing the Concorde Fire Soccer Club, presented changes that could be made to the organization’s planned soccer facility.

Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the property are worried that the soccer fields would increase traffic on an already congested Johnson Ferry Road.

Zickert shared the results of a traffic study commissioned by her client, which predicted the facility would add an additional 113 vehicles per day to the road for a total of 226 trips.

She said the numbers were adjusted up 20 percent from the highest count to “be extraordinarily sensitive to the fact that traffic is different during the school year and the summertime.”

“We did a full week of counts. Usually a traffic study is done based on counts done on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Zickert said. “However we wanted to make sure we got the most representative sample of what traffic is like seven days a week on Johnson Ferry Road.”

She said Concorde Fire would also decrease the size of the planned structure for restrooms, storage and office space from two stories to one.

“We’ve moved this structure forward (on the property), shortened it, and made it considerably smaller,” Zickert said. “We’re also willing to put additional limits on the use of that structure.”

Following her presentation, Zickert was peppered with questions from the standing-room only crowd.
Several people were unhappy with the results of the traffic study because it was conducted during the week of July 4, when traffic could have been lighter due to the holiday. Other people said they felt Concorde Fire had not done an adequate job of reaching out to their neighborhood.

“It did not put any of our concerns at ease,” said Fay Ann Sherris, who lives in nearby Fielding Park Court. “The changes to the plan were not to appease us. It’s not addressing our real concerns. It’s what they can do by law.”

Sherris said neighbors worry about the environmental impacts of the proposed facility, the traffic it would create, and the privacy that homeowners would lose.

“We have a right to enjoy our homes, to sleep at night, to pull safely in and out of our neighborhood. We have a right to retain our current property values,” she said.

But supporters of the proposed soccer facility say it would be a good thing for the community to have a recreational facility there.

“Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of kids that live nearby,” said Concorde Fire Soccer Club board member Jody Young . “I think there needs to be closer fields and amenities closer to communities so you’re not driving across town and creating traffic.”

He is hopeful that the two sides will be able to compromise.

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about who we are. We are not a big for-profit organization. We’re just a soccer club,” Young said. “The last thing we want is some kind of feud. We want the neighborhood and community to want us there.”