written by Theresa
Same & Mary Shellman
Who we are: The
DeKalb Cross-Neighborhoods Council (DCNC) is a coalition of community volunteers
representing neighborhood interests with developers concerning commercial and
residential development in and around our central DeKalb neighborhoods. The DCNC alliance aims to ensure that the outcome of local economic development
will bring measurable improvements that benefit nearby residents and reflect
good policy practices.
DCNC participants come from a variety of local
neighborhood and community organizations and are appointed as representatives
to DCNC by the boards of those groups. Representation on the DCNC is fluid,
based primarily on proximity to the development, organizational structure, and
outreach capability. The current DCNC team
working with EDENS on the North DeKalb Mall proposal includes:
Civic Association (Jim Smith, Michael Dowling);
· Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve (Chris Beck);
· Good Growth DeKalb (Mary Shellman);
· Greater Valley Brook Civic Association (Elizabeth
Roberts, Kenna Simmons, Josh Shuster);
· Laurel Ridge
Shamrock Civic Association (Marylee Putnam, Susan McWethy);
· Medlock Area Neighborhood Association
(Theresa Same), which includes Tuxworth
Springs Condo Association (Jean Logan, Adam Manchester); and
· North Druid Valley Home Association (Gail
Richman, Dawn Lanier)
MANA’s Zoning Chair Theresa Same serves
as the DCNC Chair, working to identify project specific impacted communities;
sharing her zoning expertise; and bringing her negotiation experience to community-developer
communications. Jim Smith has served as the Zoning Chair for
Clairmont Heights since 1995 and currently serves on the Community Council.
Elizabeth Roberts is an attorney experienced in zoning and real estate
issues. Theresa Same and Jim Smith have worked
together representing their neighborhoods in zoning issues since 2008. Coming from varied backgrounds, the other
DCNC members each bring unique skills and a willingness to work hard for their
communities. In an ongoing fashion, DCNC members report back and provide
community updates through their member organizations.
What we seek: Most
important of all, the DCNC strives to give the community a voice in the
development process. In DeKalb County, developers wield formidable sway and
financial resources. Coupled with the
limited opportunities for advocacy, communities are often left feeling
powerless to impact meaningful change. DCNC
brings neighborhoods together, creating a more powerful and influential
While each development is unique,
DCNC generally promotes
the inclusion of desired amenities such as
quality restaurants and locally owned businesses, employment centers, and
service and retail establishments which satisfy the needs of the community; and the use of quality
construction materials and desirable architectural styles which are compatible
with the existing neighborhoods. We support the inclusion of a percentage of affordable, workforce and senior housing in
We advocate for developments that
adhere to smart growth principles by defining traffic patterns and impact on
existing neighborhoods and implementing traffic mitigation strategies. We push for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle pathways
throughout and surrounding the developments. The most difficult piece to
negotiate has been our goal to limit environmental impact by striving to
retain, replace and enhance greenspace within development.
Thus far on the North DeKalb Mall Redevelopment: For some of us on DCNC, this is the fourth go around
with redevelopment of the mall. EDENS reached
out to the DCNC in May 2021 shortly after purchasing North DeKalb Mall. We had
an introductory meeting which gave us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves
with EDENS and their development portfolio while sharing some of the desires
and priorities of our communities.
A development of this size (77
acres) in north-central DeKalb is a unique and important opportunity.
Recognizing the stakes, Commissioners Rader and Terry dedicated County time and
resources to more fully understand the possibilities of the site and to “workshop”
with the developer. In support of this process, the Commissioners asked DCNC to
outline the concerns, priorities and requests we had previously received from our
communities. We provided a 4-page document informed by the community feedback wereceived during the most recent development proposal for this property bySterling Enterprises in 2018 [link to pdf].
In late January 2022, EDENS
invited DCNC to meet for a second time to present a preliminary site plan in
preparation for their community meeting on February 22, 2022. (This was the plan
recently reported in Decaturish and the AJC.) We had many questions and concerns – many of
the same ones we see neighbors asking on various social media platforms. (Note:
The plan EDENS will present at their community meeting on February 22, 2022 may
vary from these preliminary materials.)
While we still have some
important concerns, we have been encouraged by the fact that EDENS has shown
its willingness to listen and adjust, and we look forward to further dialogue
as the plans evolve. Following their formal presentation to the community, we
will listen to your concerns and actively collect community feedback before
coming back to the table with EDENS and our Commissioners.
What happens next: After their pre-submittal community meeting on
February 22nd, EDENS will file its rezoning application and begin the public
review process. The plans will be reviewed by the DeKalb District 2 Community
Council, the DeKalb Planning Commission, and the staff of the DeKalb County Planning
& Sustainability Department. Each of these bodies will make a
recommendation. Ultimately the Board of
Commissioners will vote on whether to grant the rezoning. Developments of this
size often take many months to work through this process. We will keep you
informed of the meeting dates once we have them.
of this size require a Development of Regional Impact study (DRI). The DRI
process looks at impacts created by the development beyond its immediate
boundaries. This study produces an advisory report for
informational use by the host local government as it moves through its local
process. EDENS has already begun this process and study results should be
available in the spring.
has also contracted the PATH Foundation to do a preliminary study of
alternative transportation options available in the area that surrounds North
DeKalb Mall. PATH will hold a series of public meetings, tentatively beginning
in March. We will let you know the dates. This is the first building block
needed for the community to understand what options we have in our area.
development is different and as such the DCNC will assess how we can best
assist the community with the redevelopment at North DeKalb Mall as it unfolds.
In the past we have addressed a range of community issues by negotiating contracts
to ensure that a developer’s promises
regarding community benefits are legally enforceable.
As always we are restricted by the dictates of the county zoning code. The
amount of leverage we are able to exert during negotiations is directly
proportional to the property’s current zoning designation and the type and
number of zoning changes and special permits requested by the developer. We are fortunate to have County Commissioners
who have encouraged us and often complement our conditions with their own. Their planning expertise and support has been
essential to our efforts.
Community involvement: DCNC
members are here to support the voices of our communities. Each DCNC member
organization represents many residents of DeKalb and our strength during negotiations
comes from those numbers. Your participation and input are crucial. We are here to solicit, organize and share
neighborhood feedback with EDENS and the Commissioners. We will work to keep you informed of upcoming
meetings and developments. We encourage you to stay informed and if you do not
understand something, ask us. At any
time during the process you can send us your input by reaching out to your
neighborhood association or by emailing the DCNC directly at email@example.com, and we strongly encourage you to do so.