The massive Brookhaven zoning rewrite was stalled for one month after Planning Commission members decided Sept. 5 they needed more time to tweak and understand final changes before voting on the proposed ordinance. The commission will take up the zoning rewrite again at its Oct. 3 meeting.

The Planning Commission took up the “public hearing” draft of the zoning ordinance during its work session and regular meeting. Questions raised varied from workforce housing zoning requirements to the time allotted for applicants to speak before the Planning Commission.

“I think we’re so close … that we would be doing a disservice to the council” if a vote was taken without complete understanding, Chairperson Stan Segal said. “If we don’t do it, they [the council] will have to defer.”

Segal wants to determine a way to include mandatory workforce housing for multi-family developments throughout the city and not just in the proposed Buford Highway Overlay as it is now proposed; city staff will research and come up with a proposal by next month.

The latest draft also included a change on the amount of time supporters of a proposed project could speak before the Planning Commission. Currently the applicant has 20 minutes to present, supporters get 20 minutes and opponents get 20 minutes..

A review of the draft by a city attorney recommended combining the time of the applicant and supporters into a single 20-minute period with the opponents still receiving a full 20 minutes.The reasoning is that proponents are supporters of their project and the city could be construed as giving more time to supporters. Segal argued there was nothing wrong with what the city is currently doing and no change should be made.

The “public hearing” draft of the proposed zoning ordinance was submitted to city officials and posted on the city’s website on Aug. 31. The original timeline for the zoning rewrite approval had City Council voting on it at its Sept. 26 meeting.

Big ideas in the draft include creating mixed-use districts, mandatory workforce housing in the Buford Highway Overlay, allowing construction of backyard cottages and secondary suites. Also included are “Master Planned Development Districts” to allow developers to submit ideas that don’t fit into conventional zoning ordinances in exchange for public benefits.

The deferral is just another step in the long process or rewriting the city’s zoning ordinance.

After the city was incorporated in 2012, the council adopted DeKalb County’s zoning code. The City Council hired Duncan Associates in 2015 to help undertake a zoning rewrite that fit the city’s needs and desires.

When Mayor John Ernst took office in 2016, he halted the zoning rewrite so the city could conduct a review of the city’s comprehensive plan and character area studies for residential neighborhoods.

Ernst said he heard on the campaign trail numerous complaints from people about developers wanting to build apartments and other high-density projects in the city, particularly around Dresden Drive within the Peachtree Overlay District.

The mayor and council approved a six-month moratorium on rezoning applications in August 2016 as a response to outcry from the community about applications from developers wanting to build apartments in the Peachtree Overlay District.

During the moratorium, a rewrite of the Peachtree Overlay District was completed to address the concerns about high-density development. Character area studies for residential neighborhoods were also undertaken.

The character area studies were approved in January 2017. The Peachtree Overlay District rewrite was then approved a year later, in January 2018. Both plans are now part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The City Council in June also approved a six-month building and construction moratorium on Buford Highway. The moratorium is expected to be lifted once the zoning ordinance rewrite is finished.

Those serving on the zoning rewrite steering committee are: Alan Cablik of Cablik Enterprises, a commercial and residential development company; Alan Michaud; Blair Belton; Bob Sorrentino; Jack Honderd, architect, developer and member of the Brookhaven-Peacthree Community Alliance; Jennifer Owens, deputy director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute; Keith Linch, commercial real estate attorney; Mike Busher, senior vice president of Ashton Woods Atlanta; Sally Epstein, art director of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve; and Planning Commission Chair Stan Segal.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.