Gated communities in Brookhaven are not unusual today. But a move by the City Council points to a new trend by city leaders to eliminate enclosed complexes for a future of “connectivity” in the city.

“I don’t support any more gated communities in Brookhaven,” Councilmember Linley Jones said in an interview. “In the long term, I think it will benefit the city through connectivity. I know we have many of them already, but I don’t support creating more.”

Jones led the effort at the Oct. 24 City Council meeting to deny Ardent Companies request to build a wrought iron fence around a 22-townhome development on Pine Cone Lane. The proposed 22-townhome project was to be part of the developer’s 73-townhome unit now under construction on Coosawattee Drive, where the Park Villa apartments were once located.

In a rare 3-2 vote, Mayor John Ernst broke the tie in favor of denying Ardent Companies’ request to add the gates around the proposed 22 new owner-occupied townhomes to be located on Pine Cone Lane. Ardent is currently constructing a 73-unit owner occupied and gated townhome development on Coosawattee Drive, across the street from the Pine Cone property.

The council’s vote to reject allowing gates around the two acres led Ardent’s Neville Allison to say the project is now in jeopardy.

Ardent Companies Neville Allison, far left, expresses his disappointment to Councilmember Linley Jones and Mayor John Ernst after the voted to reject allowing his proposed townhome development be surrounded by a wrought iron gate. (Dyana Bagby)

“If the gates are prohibited, we will not move forward with the project,” Allison told the council after the vote while urging them to find some way to add the gates back into the project.

“I know emotions are running high but I’m not persuaded by the developer’s threat to take his ball and go home,” said Councilmember Linley Jones to audible laughter from supporters of the project sitting in the crowd.

“I hope that he will develop this and accept that the direction of the city of Brookhaven is that we are not interested in gated communities,” she said.

The council approved Ardent’s request to rezone two acres of property including 2070, 2080, 2088 and 2096 Pine Cone Lane and 2069 Coosawattee Drive from R-75 (single family) to RM-75 (multifamily). Single-family houses are located on Pine Cone Lane and the 2069 Coosawattee Drive parcel is an access drive.

The rezoning request allows Ardent to build the townhomes, but just not surrounded by a gate. Ardent has two other gated luxury townhome developments in the works in this area. But these developments are being built on former multi-family sites that include entitlements for gates.

The 73-unit project now under construction, where the Park Villa apartments were located, will include gates along Coosawattee Drive and Pine Cone Lane. Ardent’s desire to add the extra two acres to build 22 more townhomes was to “square up” the property and would mean extending the gates further out on Pine Cone Lane and behind where the houses now sit.

The vote to rezone the property seemed to be a slam-dunk and included Community Development staff and the Planning Commission’s recommendation for approval. Before the rezoning vote, however, the mayor stated he had some fundamental problems with the proposed development, including his feeling this two-acre site did not need to be a gated community and also his wish that “diversity in housing” included.

After Councilmember Bates Mattison made the motion to approve the rezoning as originally proposed, Jones asked if she could make a friendly amendment to prohibit gates.

Councilmember Bates Mattison, right, talks to an upset Neville Allison from Ardent Companies after the Oct. 24 council meeting. (Dyana Bagby)

Mattison, who worked with the developers on its request, denied the friendly amendment.

“This area … is unfortunately right next to the center of crime taking place in the city,” he said, in reference to its close proximity to Buford Highway. He also added that the development does not have a park or amenity that will be accessible to the public.

After Mattison denied the friendly amendment, Jones then made the formal amendment to prohibit gates. That amendment was approved 3-2. The council then voted unanimously to rezone the property for multifamily use.

Jones said she opposed walling off communities and neighborhoods because she believes in connectivity, walkability and bikeability in the city. As metro Atlanta becomes more urbanized, these types of alternative transportation resources will be crucial to Brookhaven’s future, she said.

Allison told the council Ardent could already build gates along Pine Cone Lane and Coosawattee Drive as part of the 73-unit development. The reason to add the gates surrounding the additional 22 units is because, in part, these kinds of townhomes attract a younger, mostly female demographic who want gates for security and exclusivity.

Allison said Ardent is also willing to make a contribution for a future sidewalk to nearby Briarwood Park. “We have a commitment to this area,” he said. “This is our third development here … and they are all gated.”

“By no means are we trying to wall off pedestrian connectivity,” Allison said.

Mattison, who seemed shocked by Jones’ amendment, said there was no path for successful connectivity from the development’s site and said it was bad policy to make changes to a zoning application from the dais. The city’s bike-ped plan lays out a trail a few hundred feet away from the townhome development, he added.

“Doing this doesn’t provide any connectivity,” he said. “To have a developer walk away from this property … I can’t understand why we are doing this.”

During public comment following the vote, an upset Michael Miller, said he owns two of the houses on Pine Cone Lane that Ardent wants to buy. He said he rents the houses for $850 a month and

taxes to the city were minimal from his rental properties.

“You could have had [22] townhouses there bringing in [more] revenue,” he said.

8 replies on “Brookhaven council rejects gates for townhome development”

  1. The only connectivity will be Waze finding a new cut through and police cars writing more break in reports and thefts.

    The zoning board approved this request. Councilman Bates, whose district this fall in approved it. I’m not sure the Ernst, Parks or Jones are even familiar with the area.

    This should passed without as it was presented. If I was the developer, I would pass without a gated community. Too bad I thought the area was on the up.

  2. Ardent,

    I agree wholeheartedly if you decide not go forward with development. The crime in Brookhaven is MUCH WORSE, than reported on both side of the city corridor. In one week alone, the neighborhood I live in off of Peachtree Road, has had a car stolen, mail stolen, packages stolen – one that contained a resident’s medication and if it were not for another good samaritan neighbor, who found the empty box and informed the person. Two weeks before that, a home was burglarized, the details of which are so disgusting, I won’t describe them here. Right now, our neighborhood is under siege due to the mix of crime, it’s that bad.

    Our neighborhood Facebook page is lit up with stories of crime in the past month and reports to BPD. Stories of crime adjoining neighborhoods abound.

    Not surprising the 3 who voted down the fence all share the same “values” – crime is acceptable and the norm in Brookhaven.

  3. John, hate to burst your bubble, but your uninformed. Read history, study architecture.

    Read Wikipedia’s “Gated Communities.” The overwhelming evidence behind the rise in gated communities is the rise in crime and violence. In the U.S. homes were originally built without carports, let alone garages. Carports were later added to provide protection from the elements but left open so owners could show off their cars. Today, garages with automatically locking doors are the standard. Even backyard fences were not installed as a routine new construction.

    Secured communities didn’t precede your politically correct crime and violence, gated communities, fencing, multiple cameras, security systems, dogs, are the result of it.

  4. I remember when Linley Jones was nominated for an award, the nominator said that “though she is little she is fierce.” Judging from that comment, her remarks and the picture of her in this article, Mr. Neville Allison may have just found this out the hard way.

  5. Interesting assumptions…Gates have pros and cons as we all know. Did anyone ask the experts, i.e. BPD about their thoughts/opinions? or are we just going to be flippant about the matter and construe our personal experiences/opinions to be facts and generalized to apply to all?
    Per BPD’s 2015 annual report, crime was down for some parts, and up in others. It seems like their overall conclusion was “6% decrease of part I crimes” (pg 12

    It’s nice to see a developer care about their own property values, the owner of the property to be sold care about his own property values, and the council to care about the impacts to the region and long term…but hey, I’m all for making it up and playing with the good ‘ol boys too! gates for all!

  6. I live on Pine Cone Ln and don’t want to see it become a dead end street. While I normally exit via Briarwood, it’s nice to have the option to drive, bike, or walk through Burton Plaza Lane instead. I understand the marketability of a gated community but the developers simply need to split the community in two parts and have separate gates for each side.

    If the developers are able to buy the land on Burton Plaza Lane, at minimum there needs to be pedestrian or bike travel available through or around the community. This is critical with the Peachtree Creek Greenway coming nearby.

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