The city of Brookhaven is working to build its police force, set a millage rate and begin work on a comprehensive master plan. Here are some highlights:
Police services - At its June 11 city council meeting, two new veteran police officers who are both fluent in Spanish, were sworn in. Sgt. Chad Latonis joins Brookhaven from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, where he implemented Hispanic community outreach programs. He also served as a gang investigator with a special operations unit. Lt. Juan Gruillon comes from the East Point Police Department, where he supervised narcotics, serious crime, and K-9 units.
Police Chief Gary Yandura said, “I am adamant about building a force that is able to serve and protect all of our community members and reflects the diversity in our city’s population.”
In the council’s work session, the police chief unveiled his plan to divide the city into six beats, with at least one patrol assigned to it with the goal of achieving a three-minute emergency response time.
“It will be good coverage and a lot more than people are used to seeing,” Yandura said.
Yandura confirmed that nearly all of the 50-plus police force has been hired. With 1,000 applicants the chief and his deputy have been interviewing more than 40 applicants a week. When fully staffed, the chief said there would be nine officers and two sergeants assigned to each 12-hour shift. The city is hoping to launch its own police force by the end of July or early August.
City Manager Marie Garrett updated the council that the Intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County to provide police services for the city was still not completed. Attorney Bill Riley had previously informed the council that the county had originally asked for $800,000 a month, and had come down to $525,000 a month.
In its latest round of talks, the city has suggested a lower figure based on its estimates of actual services and has asked the county for an accounting of what it receives for the $18,000 a day price tag. The city is awaiting the county’s response.
The city has also requested a copy of all the tickets written by DeKalb police in the city of Brookhaven since it became a city. Ticket fines are supposed to be paid to the city, but some residents have complained that they were ordered to pay at DeKalb’s Recorders Court.
Tax Millage Public Hearings - The city began Monday night the first of three public hearings on its proposed millage rate. The next two hearings are set for Thursday, June 20 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. All hearings are held at the Brookhaven Municipal Court, 2 Corporate Blvd., Suite 125.
“We value the public’s input and want to hear from both residential and commercial property owners,” Mayor J. Max Davis said.
According to the city finance director, Bonnie Kline, the city stands to collect $6.6 million in property taxes. That’s $1.6 million more than estimated in the city’s feasibility report.
District 1 Council member Rebecca Chase Williams said she is optimistic the council will be able to lower the millage rate from the tentative millage of 3.35 to closer to 2.75, which would be among the lowest in the county.
Overlay Text Amendment - The council was scheduled to take up the proposed text amendment at its specially called Council meeting Monday night. The city is currently in a 90-day moratorium for development in the Brookhaven Overlay, which is about a one square mile area that includes most of Peachtree Road along the MARTA station as well as the immediate surrounding area along Dresden and Apple Valley Roads. The zoning code passed five years ago calls for denser, more urban, pedestrian-friendly development.
Community Development Director Susan Canon explained at the council meeting that the changes were made in an attempt to “strengthen the fabric of the overlay” by addressing inconsistencies or unclear language. The proposed text amendments include a definition of building height, second story requirements, regulations for sidewalk signs, and increased parking for restaurants.
After hearing numerous complaints from residents close to Dresden Drive of overflow parking on residential streets, the amendment proposes to triple the required parking for restaurants from one space for every 400 square feet of building space to one space for every 125 square feet of building and outdoor dining space, so that a 10,000 square foot restaurant would have to provide 80 spaces compared to the former requirement of 25.
At the public hearing concerning the text amendments, a number of citizens were concerned that the proposed amendment for second story requirements would allow builders to skirt the overlay’s requirement of a full second- story. This amendment stems in part from a proposal in recent years of a Walgreens on Peachtree that has a partial second story. Over the weekend council members and residents were working on revised language. Council member Williams was expected to offer an amendment strengthening the language to specify that the second floor must be 100 percent of the square footage of the first floor.
Sex Device store cited - A new store called Stardust applied for a business license describing its business as selling “tobacco products.” When the store opened, there appeared to be no tobacco products, only adult sex toys and devices, lubricants, and drug paraphernalia according to Brookhaven code compliance officers. The city has cited the store for at least five violations a day for at least a week for not having a valid business license, not having a permit as a sexually oriented business, and being in violation of required buffers to nearby residential areas and other adult businesses. A July court date has been set to hear the case.