A petition is circulating against a rezoning application that would allow St. Martin’s Episcopal School to build new athletic facilities in Brookhaven.
The petition, called “NO soccer field next to my home,” has 685 signatures as of the time of publication on Nov. 1. St. Martin’s has submitted a rezoning application for a roughly 7.2-acre tract of land along Osborne Road, historically known as Morrison Farms. St. Martin’s is looking to rezone the three parcels to R-75 with a special land-use permit that would allow school land use in a residential district.
According to city documents from an Oct. 25 Brookhaven City Council meeting, the rezoning would allow for a recreational facility including a 60-yard by 120-yard synthetic turf sports field, a 23,000 square foot multi-purpose building not to exceed two stories, 87 parking spaces, and a half-acre publicly-accessible pocket park.
“We are a group of neighbors in Brookhaven GA who enjoy living in this quiet neighborhood, raising our children, working from home to make a living and accommodating our family, relatives and friends all the time,” reads the petition. “There are very legitimate concerns that if rezoned, the development of this privately owned facility will likely damage values of surrounding homes.”
In an emailed statement, Den Webb, land-use attorney for St. Martin’s, called the petition “misleading.”
“The petition page does not even include a copy of the site plan, so people are being asked to sign it without considering the true details of the project. In addition, the change.org petition is set up for anyone to sign regardless of their proximity to the site,” Webb said. “The opposition has had several opportunities to make the same arguments to the Planning Commission, and that body, after weighing those arguments against the facts and legal criteria, voted to recommend approval of the applications. The City’s Planning Staff has done the same and likewise recommends approval.”
During an Oct. 5 Brookhaven Planning Commission meeting, the commission recommended approval on the application by a vote of 3-2, contingent on numerous staff conditions.
Those conditions include no lighting on the sports field, no permanent or temporarily mounted PA systems, and no permanent or temporary batting cage facilities. The conditions also limit external lighting between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. to security lighting only. At the planning commission meeting, some commissioners also spoke against some requests that St. Martin’s had for staff’s recommendations, such as being able to periodically use facilities outside of operating hours.
During that meeting, multiple residents spoke in opposition to the application, citing concerns about possible noise levels, the impact on their property values, and increased activity in the area that might disrupt its residential character.
The petition references these concerns and includes a University of Georgia graduate dissertation from Jeffrey G. Robert, who is now a collegiate assistant professor of real estate at Virginia Tech. The petition references a line from the dissertation that says a shift to nonresidential real estate zones from residential real estate zones is associated with negative price shocks for residential real estate.
Robert’s full report also points out that proximity to good schools and greenspace can improve nearby residential home values, which Webb also articulated in his statement. In an emailed statement, Robert confirmed that he was contacted for additional information regarding the rezoning.
“This case is very interesting and the question of positive or negative influence on the nearby residential community comes down to the details,” Robert said. “Generally, parks and recreation space improve nearby residential property value. However, in those cases the parks and recreation space were designated for the community. In this situation, the athletic field and complex center are not constructed, primarily, for the community’s benefit but for the main use and enjoyment of the private school.”
Robert went on to say that if the community had full access to the recreational space, there could be benefits to the neighborhood at large. According to Webb, the half acre pocket park in the facility will be a public park. Webb also said that St. Martin’s has agreed to make the facility accessible to Brookhaven neighborhood groups, civic groups, and the city itself. One of the staff’s conditions is that leasing or renting the sports field will be prohibited, but that would not prohibit the school from letting groups use it for free.
“Development creates conflict as there are many uncertainties. At the current zoning of RS-75 and RS-100, this property could, by-right and without community engagement, support roughly twenty single family homes after accounting for new road infrastructure,” Robert said in his statement. “Ultimately, the community must decide between new single family dwelling infill or this alternative development project.”
The Brookhaven City Council deferred the rezoning application at its Oct. 25 meeting, and is expected to view the application at its Nov. 8 meeting.