Submitted by Ernie Eichenbaum, Board Secretary of Briarlake Community Forest Alliance
RE: No High-Density Construction
The Board of Commissioners on November 18 accepted the request of the Developer (Arrowhead) to withdraw their application to rezone the Briarlake Forest for high-density construction.
Following that event, the Briarlake Community Forest Alliance Board met to reflect on what we were able to achieve since Labor Day as a basis for our next steps.
Here are the ten things that we contributed to:
1. The withdrawal of the cluster home rezoning application.
- If the proposed smaller lot (R-60) rezoning application had gone through, the proposed high-density cluster home development would have been inconsistent with the characteristics of all the surrounding neighborhoods.
- This request has been removed from the County’s active zoning agenda, at least for the time being.
2. The prevention of the use of public funds to enable high-density construction.
3. The finding that there was not a legally binding commitment given by DeKalb County for greenspace, a park or reserve. Therefore, the County did not renege on their legal commitments – there never were any.
- There was never a clear and transparent process about how County officials were operating to provide greenspace.
- Validation was obtained that the proposed rezoning was being sought without the existence of a legally binding commitment on the part of either the County or the developer to establish any public/green space that would accrue to the benefit of the community as a whole – not on one acre nor on six acres.
- No formal/written promise or commitment was issued by the county at any point, and no mechanism was ever outlined to anyone, that would govern the maintenance, upkeep, or safety of any such area over the long-term.
4. The organization of the 12 surrounding neighborhoods, giving us one voice.
- The residents of twelve neighborhoods in our area, many of which have historically maintained their own individual sense of community without the presence of formal homeowners’ associations, were given an opportunity to speak with one voice on a matter of historical importance, and were able as a result to make progress in penetrating the lack of transparency in actions taken by the County and the Board of Commissioners.
5. The research and documentation of the problems that ANY development will impose.
- Public safety, flooding, traffic, ecology, pollution, visual, legal, financial, etc.
- The potential problems that would be imposed on our community by additional development have been thoroughly researched and documented, and presented to County officials in a way that may have impacted their understanding of the situation. At a minimum, they can now better identify the issues and problems that concern our surrounding communities.
6. The establishment of connections with DeKalb County.
- Open lines of communication were created with DeKalb County leadership, enabling the community to make them aware of the problems that any development would impose (and specifically what the impact of rezoning would be).
- Established extensive connections with other County, State, and Federal agencies.
7. The understanding we now have of the developer’s unexpected change of position – first asking for Deferral and later asking for a Withdrawal of their rezoning application – is that this change was not solely a result of our efforts.
- The decision by the developers to change their request at the Nov. 18 meeting from asking for a “Deferral” to formally “Withdrawing” their application for rezoning (on their own, without any signals from the County that it was likely to object to the specific land use) was not shared with us in advance of the Board of Commissioners meeting.
- This decision was impacted by residents’ concerns, but was mainly made either due (a) to the County’s inability/unwillingness to legally subsidize the developer, or (b) as a planned element of their negotiating strategy, which may suggest the possibility of alternative strategies being brought forth from them in the future.
8. The contracting with one of the best qualified zoning and permitting lawyers in DeKalb County,
- He is an expert in this type of transaction, hired to guide us through every move in the complex permitting process and the appeals making sure our needs are taken into account and the community has a strong voice.
- He will now play a pivotal role in advising BCFA in our legal options to protect the residents and reduce and/or limit residential development.
- He is conducting a similar role on behalf of the Druid Hills neighborhood opposing residential development in their area.
9. The identification of alternatives to development and potential funding.
- Alternative approaches to achieve the “highest and best use” of this valuable property continue to be developed, including sources of possible funding for any potential future transaction that might take place in that regard.
10. The solid proof that we are stronger together.
- It has been demonstrated that we are stronger when we act together, and therefore we must maintain our current posture and level of energy in order to successfully navigate the next steps in the process.
We call on everyone to stay informed and to contact the County Commissioners to encourage them to work with the community to preserve all 21 acres.