Work may now continue on a controversial house under construction in the Ashford Park neighborhood of Brookhaven.
According to Brookhaven’s Planning Director Susan Canon, the stop work order for construction at 2802 Ashford Road was lifted Dec. 2 “because the house is in compliance with the setback.”
Over the past several weeks, angry Ashford Park residents have demanded that the house be moved because it is being built too close to the street.
According to the DeKalb County zoning code that Brookhaven adopted, each zoning classification has a minimum setback requirement, which dictates how close a how house may be to the road. But some areas also have an “average setback,” which means a property owner must take an average of the setbacks of the homes on either side of them so that the houses on the street line up.
Brookhaven issued a permit to build the house according to the minimum setback of the residential zoning district, not taking the average setback requirement into account.
Doug Dillard, an attorney representing the owners of the property, said he’s glad his clients will be able to continue work on the house.
“The zoning classifications are inconsistent on each side of the house and therefore the averaging ordinance does not apply. The city attorney agreed with us, and staff obviously agreed with us, so they lifted the stop work order,” Dillard said.
After the stop work order was issued, the city’s attorney issued a written opinion stating that because the houses on either side of the home under construction are in different residential zoning districts, he doesn’t believe the owners are required to abide by the average setback requirements.
“It was an administrative decision. It’s something council doesn’t have anything to do with because they delegated that responsibility,” Dillard said. “Staff issued the stop work order and staff lifted the stop work order.”
But many residents are angry that Brookhaven City Council is not doing more to preserve the streetscape of Ashford Park. At the council’s Nov. 26 meeting, residents said they believe that inconsistencies in the city’s zoning map may be partly to blame for the issue.
The residents told the council that while researching zoning in the neighborhood, they discovered that many of the lots had different zoning designations on the city’s zoning map than they did on the map on file in DeKalb County.
Ashford Park resident Meredith Sasser told the council that she wants to know how several lots in the neighborhood were changed when the zoning data was handed over to the city.
“At some point earlier this year it was [zoned] R-100 and now it’s R-85,” Sasser said. “What I want to understand is how it was rezoned?”
The city has launched a formal audit of the map it inherited from the county earlier this year. City officials suspect as much as 20 years worth of files may be missing.
In an email, Todd Varino, an immediate neighbor of the house under construction, expressed his frustration with the city’s decision to let the construction continue at 2802 Ashford Road.
“The city of Brookhaven has formally set the ‘wrong’ precedent, the slippery slope. What’s next?” Varino wrote.
He wrote in the email that he is still considering what to do now.
“ We are working on our next steps. It is not over by any means. It’s amazing how something so wrong (and potentially illegal) and so opposed can be approved by our new city without adequate due diligence,” Varino said.