Much of this is from the research presented at the August 2018 meeting by Jay Starkman in the Toco Hills library.
Three properties (single family homes) along Briarcliff were combined to make a single lot. These were purchased and then upzoned in 2006 to create a 19 townhouse development. Neighborhood concerns in 2006 led to concessions and compromise, where the previous developer agreed to numerous improvements including but not limited to:
- Egress onto Briarcliff and no right turn on Stephens (to protect neighborhood)
- Sidewalk to Biltmore
- Limited footprint of townhouses
Ground was never broken, and the lot sat idle for 12 years. Sadly, it appears there were major changes made in 2007 and subsequent years that might not have had the proper public review. In 2017, the property was transferred to an LLC (recorded price of $2M) and construction began. With facts on the ground, the county is seeking to get the new plan approved after construction has begun.
Among the problems with the new construction, the following issues have been reported by local resident Jay Starkman during his speech at the August 14, 2018 community meeting at the Avis Williams Library in Toco Hills. Jay has lived here since the original agreement.
Jay reports that the 2007 plan differs from the 2006 plan in the following ways (all presented at the August 14 meeting):
- Increased Size and Location of Townhouses
- The 2006 zoning agreement allowed up to 19 townhouses, consisting of 10 townhomes in front and 9 townhomes in back, all 22 feet in width. The new plan has 11 townhomes 22.5 feet in width, and another 8 townhomes 24.5 feet in width. By making the townhouses bigger, it’s like building more units in terms of drainage and land use.
- Briarcliff Road Access and Traffic through Neighborhood
- The 2006 agreement required ingress and egress to/from Briarcliff Road. The new plan provides no egress – the egress is blocked by the 11th townhouse.
- Safety Improvements for Pedestrians
- Certain improvements to the street were promised in 2006, including a sidewalk to Biltmore. It is not clear that this is part of the new plan and we would like clarification if the sidewalk is still part of the 2007 plan. The neighborhood has a lot of students who walk to Emory, doctors who walk to the Hospital, and Orthodox Jews who walk on their Sabbath.
- Decreased Setback
- The 2006 plan included a 60 foot setback, consistent with other houses on Stephens. This will be the first property on Stephens with a 20 foot setback. This precedent can easily be used for other residents in Biltmore Estates to build all the way to the street.
- Stormwater Management
- The new plan includes a detention pond. It was built, and is now a cesspool of brown murky water, with construction debris floating in it and mosquitoes breeding. The pond is very possibly less than 20 feet from the stream – state rule is 25 feet, and county rule is 75 feet. Read here for more: Creek Setback and State Law
- Traffic Study
- Atlanta has grown since 2006. Dekalb has not presented us any new studies at the meeting as to how this high density housing will impact traffic. They have already upgraded the intersection at Biltmore and Lavista, and are planning an upgrade to the intersection of Briarcliff and LaVista (Plans for LaVista/Briarcliff). Residents have not seen any traffic counters placed on Stephens. Since traffic backs up from this intersection beyond Burton many mornings, has the impact of 19 additional units been modeled?
- Poor Neighborhood Relations
- August 2018 meeting was held with 5 days notice – state law is 15 days.
- Unit 11, having been subject to a stop work order due to neighborhood concerns, has required code enforcement to come out twice to ensure they stopped working on it.
- Heavy construction trucks performing U-turns in the neighborhood, working well past dark (as documented by neighbors).