Archive for May, 2009

DeKalb County Defers Decisions On Suing Dunwoody And Changes to Liquor Ordinance

The DeKalb County Commissioners again deferred a decision on whether it will sue Dunwoody.  It was the eighth time in eight months that the Commissioners delayed making a decision about the lawsuit.

“I feel this is a positive step,” [Commissioner Elaine Boyer] said of the ongoing negotiations. “We have asked to continue mediation with the city of Dunwoody.”

The County and Dunwoody are in current negotiations over the transfer of county-owned property, including the multi-million-dollar Brook Run Park facility on North Peachtree Road.

The County also deferred a decision on changes to its liquor license proposed by Commissioner Kathie Gannon that would allow restaurants in mixed-use developments to serve alcohol despite their proximity to schools or churches.

The Commissioners will tackle both again next month.

Aerotropolis Atlanta

Jacoby Development Inc., the developer that turned an old steel mill into Atlantic Station — a live-work-play mini-city in Midtown — recently completed the initial demolition and site remediation of the 128-acre site of old Ford Motor Company plant in Hapeville along I-75.  By fall, the development will enter Phase I – construction of light industrial and parking.

The $1.5 billion development will be called Aerotropolis Atlanta because of its close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  The 10-year development proposes office space, hotels, retail, restaurants, a light industrial business park and a 4,000-space airport parking facility.

More than 90 million passengers passed through Hartsfield last year, the world’s busiest airport. Aerotropolis Atlanta will be “a direct connection” to the international terminal under construction, Condra said. The terminal will be located just across Loop Road from the Jacoby property. Plans call for shuttle service to be offered on Loop Road, so travelers can eat and shop during layovers.

“I really think the reason this project is doing well when others aren’t is our proximity to the airport,” he said. “The location is a big, big selling point.”

Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman says while the economy might slow the completion date, the project is moving ahead.

Gwinnett County Settles Zoning Lawsuit, Purchases Land For $2.3 Million

Majors Management sought rezoning of a 33-acre tract for higher density residential development.  Majors Management proposed to develop the property into 91 lots.  Gwinnett County denied the rezoning request, which meant the property could only be developed into 33 one-acre lots.  Majors Management sued Gwinnett County. 

A year later, the Gwinnett County Commission voted 3-1 to approve the purchase of the 33-acre tract for $2.3 million – more than $69,000 per acre.  The County’s acquisition of the property ends the lawsuit.  But, not all are happy.

The commissioner who cast the dissenting vote calls the purchase, at $69,000 per acre, inexcusable.

The appraiser calls it incomprehensible.

“I don’t understand this,” said Larry Singleton of Singleton Real Estate in Woodstock. “I couldn’t sell that [property] for $69,000 an acre.”

The Commissioners reviewed appraisal valuing the property from $33,000 – $73,000 per acre.

County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who voted in favor of the purchase along with Commissioner Bert Nasuti and Commission Chairman Charles Bannister, said land appraisals for the entire area were “all over the board.”

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, whose district includes the purchased property, said the wide range in appraisals should have convinced the commission that further study of the site was required.

Like Kenerly, Banister said he had studied appraisals for properties near the site and found them inconsistent. He said the proposal had been sitting around for months while the county faced the lawsuit. He added Gwinnett always has taken the lead in park development, and the decision was in the best interest of the county.

Sembler Asks DeKalb County For $52 Million In Tax Incentives

Sembler asked DeKalb County for $52 million in tax incentives to finish its 54-acre mixed-use development near the Brookhaven MARTA station.

A couple of buildings are up, but last week, [Sembler President Jeff] Fuqua said nothing else will rise on the site unless taxpayers subsidize the project. He showed officials an aerial photograph of the site. They saw two mid-rise residential towers surrounded by dirt.

The tax incentive proposal will meet with skeptical politicans and again face neighborhood opposition.

DeKalb’s top elected official, Burrell Ellis, is worried about the precedent of giving such a generous handout. At the same time, he fears getting stuck with a raw construction site.

“I think there is some benefit to the county of seeing this project completed,” said Ellis, DeKalb’s chief executive officer. But, he said, other developers are in trouble, so a tax break like this “could have broader implications than this one project.”

Bill Draper, a longtime critic of Sembler, said neighbors would like to see the project completed so they could shop in the stores and dine at the restaurants.

“We want to see it finished, but we don’t want to have to pay to see it finished,” said Draper, who is a board member of the Brookhaven-Peachtree Community Alliance.

Cobb County Quiet On Eyed Park Locations

Cobb County is eyeing 277 properties to purchase for parks, but will not release the locations of the potential parks.  A 15-member committee appointed by the County Commission will meet behind closed doors to evaluate the properties and make recommendations.  The County says the secrecy is necessary to keep land speculators from driving up the prices. 

Critics, however, don’t buy the county’s argument now, particularly amid a recession that is socking property values. They say publicizing the locations of the properties could encourage owners to make their prices more competitive.

“I’m not sure if I really understand all of the secrecy around this,” said Jeff Wood, who serves on the 15-member committee county commissioners appointed to evaluate the properties. “I just happen to think that it is may be a little bit shortsighted because there is so much competition for the $40 million.”

Cobb County Commission Chair and candidate for Attorney General Sam Olens first deferred to the County Attorney about the secrecy, but then added:

Olens, however, said he would direct the county to disclose the locations of the properties the committee ultimately recommends, as he did after the 2006 parks bond issue. County commissioners, Olens added, will vote on purchasing the parkland in public after giving residents an opportunity to comment.