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Briarcliff Library/Park Plan Moving Closer to Decision

Commissioner Rader meets with residents to explore details of proposed rezoning on library and development of greenspace.

District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader answers questions during a meeting Tuesday night on the proposed rezoning of the Briarcliff Library area, including a provision for greenspace.
District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader answers questions during a meeting Tuesday night on the proposed rezoning of the Briarcliff Library area, including a provision for greenspace.
With a Jan. 28 DeKalb Board of Commissioners vote pending, discussions moved along Tuesday night on how to achieve two things -- the rezoning of the former Briarcliff Library to make it desirable to sell and the neighborhood's desire to have a new park.

District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader met with neighborhood groups at First Alliance Church along with Library Director Alison Weissinger to explain details on the proposed library rezoning and how greenspace funds could be used to create a new park.

The DeKalb Planning Commission voted Jan. 7 to rezone the building at 2775 Briarcliff Road and adjoining parking area to Office-Institutional Transitional (O-I-T). They also approved rezoning the floodplain area of the property to allow for greenspace, O-I-T means that the old building could be used for commercial purposes, but with a series of outlined restrictions.

The North Druid Hills Residents Association and Friends of Briarcliff Park have opposed rezoning the property for Office-Institutional because of concerns it would impact the residential flavor of the neighborhood and open the door for more development. During the fall, they first raised the idea of a park on the library property.

"My suggestion is that we confront the zoning issue before we sell it (the property)," Rader told the residents. "I'd like to avoid someone coming down the road saying they want to rezone to something more dense."

Rader insisted that splitting the library property between O-I-T for the building area and greenspace for the flood plain was a better option than leaving the property with an RM-150 designation for a buyer. With that designation, he said a developer would want to build more intensely in the current space and into the floodplain, and that would hinder creation of greenspace.

NDHRA and Rader have been in touch with county school officials, including board member Marshall Orson, about purchasing some adjoining unused property behind Margaret Harris Comprehensive School to include in the park. The school property is commonly known as the "dog park" because it's a community meeting place for animal owners and their pets.

NDHRA engaged a land planner to conceptualize a rough draft of a park before recent presentations to the District 2 Community Council and the Planning Commission. Some residents envision a "linear park" that could conceivably stretch in the future toward Lavista Road, but there has been no formal plans or discussions beyond the immediate library area.

Rader said District 2 has more than $3 million in greenspace funds allotted, and that the county has been trying to buy small pieces of property to create parks. He added that it would be permissible to use those funds to buy the adjoining school property.

Rader urged the residents to make sure they are satisfied with the wording for restrictions placed on the property under the proposed tougher O-I-T rezoning. Under the restrictions, Rader said the purpose is to leave the existing building, parking lot and landscaping while having the new property owner "mimic the operations of a library," with regular hours and no day care or other business that would create traffic issues.

Alan Pinkser, NDHRA's zoning and land use chair, led questioning from the group to Rader about the wording of the proposed restrictions. He will be meeting with other residents to take a closer look at the proposed rezoning.

As was the case after the Planning Commission vote, not all residents were completely happy with the turn of events.

John Steineken, a local resident and member of the District 2 Community Council, objected to the commercialization of the area and not preserving assets in the community, like the library. "Don't do things to the area, do things for the area," he said.

Gary Coryell and his wife Susan Coryell, executive director of Friends of Briarcliff Park, noted that a library or park brings a different value to a community than an office building. The Coryells live directly across the street from the library. Susan Coryell repeated a statement she has made in previous meetings. "I don't want to live across the street from an office," she said.

She told Rader 300 residents signed a petition wanting the whole library property as a park.

Previous stories on the Briarcliff Library rezoning issue:

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