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"Compatable Land Use: New city, annexation complicate airport rezoning issue"
Saturday, April 28, 2012
New city, annexation complicate airport rezoning issue
By April Hunt
The Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution
Two Chamblee City Council members mingled quietly in the overflow crowd at a
recent DeKalb County meeting, listening as most residents pledged to fight
the county's proposal to rezone 15 acres just south of DeKalb-Peachtree
County officials say allowing light industrial use will help sell the
tree-covered land for "airport compatible" businesses -- meeting an
obligation placed on DeKalb because it used Federal Aviation Administration
money to pay for what was once a residential neighborhood.
Homeowners in the area, many across busy Clairmont Road from the land and
airport, want the county to keep the land as is. That way, it acts as both
green space and a noise buffer from the state's second-busiest airfield.
But the presence of Chamblee officials underscored that this
resident-airport beef could have more than two sides.
After an annexation vote this fall, Chamblee could swallow the southern half
of the airport all the way to I-85. The city would be in charge of zoning
changes on that land, just as it was for land skirting the 765-acre airport
to the north.
Chamblee rezoned the land within its city limits years ago to allow for
shops and hotels.
"If that land had been ours, too, we would probably have moved on the
directive and repurposed it," Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson said, stopping
short of saying just what the north DeKalb city would do if it controlled
"There sure seems to be a lot of community pushback against it, so we'd have
to investigate," he added.
The pending Brookhaven vote also complicates what at first appears to be
another squabble in a decades-long showdown between the county-owned
airfield and residents who make their homes nearby.
Many opponents of the county's plan live in Ashford Park and Drew Valley --
two neighborhoods that could become part of a city of Brookhaven after this
summer's referendum. To put an end to any changes in the future, they want
the county to drop the rezoning plan or buy the land outright to become a
"There is no reason it can't be kept green space forever," said Larry
Foster, a resident who has organized opposition to the proposal. "That's
what we were promised when this land first sold."
Airport Director Mike Van Wie said the county could create a park on the
property -- as long as it buys the land at fair market price. A recent
appraisal values the entire property at $3.5 million, including a 5-acre
parcel that the county's Police Department has on hold for a potential north
That project, too, is in a holding pattern. If Brookhaven incorporates and
Chamblee annexes, DeKalb will move its north precinct south, into its
"There are a lot of issues to be considered, but there is no imperative we
take any action on this quickly," said Commissioner Jeff Rader, whose
district includes the land to be rezoned. "We are trying to divine what is
in the best interest of as many people as we can."
The next time to hash out the proposal, and all its scenarios, will be at
Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
in the Manuel Maloof Auditorium in downtown Decatur.
If the commission makes a recommendation, the County Commission will take up
the proposal at its May 22 meeting.
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