Brookhaven and Chamblee officials have escalated a dispute over who has the right to annex an office complex off Clairmont Road.
Brookhaven City Council deferred a vote to rezone and annex the Century Center complex into the city at a special called meeting July 22.
The same day, a DeKalb County Superior Court judge granted Chamblee a temporary restraining order preventing Brookhaven from annexing the property until a court hearing could be scheduled.
Brookhaven City Council was scheduled to take a final vote on the annexation July 23, but deferred the decision. Relations between the neighboring cities have been strained since the owners of Century Center applied for annexation into Brookhaven July 1. The commercial property is also part of an annexation referendum that, if passed by voters Nov. 5, would move Century Center and approximately 11,000 residents into the city of Chamblee.
Mayor J. Max Davis said he’d like to sit down with Chamblee officials to discuss what’s best for businesses and residents from a regional perspective.
“We reached out to the city of Chamblee and they told us they didn’t want to meet,” Davis said.
But Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said Brookhaven officials have known about the possible annexation for months and waited too long to extend an olive branch.
“Not once during this time did anyone from Brookhaven ask to meet with me or anyone from the city of Chamblee to discuss this issue. When I first learned of this potential annexation, it was through a secondary source that thought Chamblee should know what was going on,” Clarkson said in an email.
Chamblee Councilman Thomas Hogan, who attended the Brookhaven City Council meeting July 22, said there’s nothing left to talk to about. He believes Chamblee’s annexation referendum, approved by the Georgia General Assembly, would take precedence over Brookhaven council’s vote. “In the event this haphazard city were to vote in favor of a reckless annexation, you could bet it would be for [no more than] two months, because the referendum would take precedence over a self-serving city council,” Hogan said.
The property is currently zoned “office industrial” and “office distribution” under DeKalb County. Brookhaven staff has recommended rezoning it PC3, or “Pedestrian Community District,” a mixed-use zoning that requires a detailed site plan.
Nearby residents spoke out against the rezoning during a public hearing, criticizing Brookhaven City Council for moving too quickly on a project of such significance.
Jim Bacchetta, vice president of Highwoods Properties’ Atlanta Division, one of Century Center’s owners, told the council July 22 that the proposed PC3 zoning would be important for attracting businesses. He said businesses are often unwilling to relocate if proper zoning isn’t in place. The mixed-use zoning designation, Bacchetta said, is an accurate reflection of the property’s current use as well as Highwood’s future development goals.
“It eliminates the uncertainty, and helps us be more nimble in the marketplace,” Bacchetta said. “Leaving us underzoned puts us in a competitive disadvantage to other developers.”
Some Brookhaven Planning Commission and City Council members also questioned the need to rezone the property right away. “The information we’ve received is woefully inadequate in meeting the PC3 requirements,” said Councilman Jim Eyre. “We have no building layouts, no buffers, nothing but a bubble diagram that lists some areas to be developed.”
Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said she thinks the PC3 zoning requirement would do away with the “antiquated” zoning classification the property has now. “I thought it was our intent to be a little more business-friendly and remove some of the unnecessary regulatory structure,” Williams said of the city of Brookhaven.
Councilman Bates Mattison said while he agrees that PC3 is the appropriate zoning for the property, he suggested delaying the process to provide more time for public input.
“The public perception is, ‘Why are you doing this at the same time as annexation?’” Mattison said.