To their disappointment, residents in the Druid Hills community say they will have to go to court to continue their battle against a proposed subdivision in the historic district.
Residents were hoping for an end to their decade-long fight against the subdivision planned by property owners Robert H. Buckler and Anthony McCullar. The men want to subdivide three lots on Clifton Road into seven lots, ranging from two-thirds to four-tenths of an acre.
The property is located in the historic Druid Hills which was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. The community is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The county’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted Feb. 13 to deny an appeal of a decision to issue a land disturbance permit for the property.
“The core issue is whether or not these developers needed to have a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission before they could get approval from the planning commission for their subdivision,” said Rob Benfield, an attorney for the Druid Hills Civic Association.
Bruce MacGregor, president of the Druid Hills Civic Association, said, “The decision today was very disappointing.
“The Zoning Board of Appeals seemed to be confused,” MacGregor said. “It was a simple question. Was the land development permit issued properly or not?”
MacGregor said, “The next step is to go to court. Again. At our own expense.”
“It was very disappointing,” MacGregor said. “This has gone on 10 years. The owner…has lost eight lawsuits. He’s lost three attempts at the General Assembly to change state law. The only things he has won have been two administrative decisions” by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’ administration.
The next showdown in the fight will be March 18 before DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson. A temporary restraining order for the development of the property was set to expire Feb. 17, but Jackson has extended it until a court hearing March 18.
The appeal to the zoning board was made by DeKalb commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader and the Druid Hills Civic Association.
“There was an appeal of an erroneous decision made by our administrative staff,” Gannon sad. “Unfortunately the board of appeals did not look at those facts and made a motion to deny [the appeal].
“Even though it was made through some kind of decision [or] deal on the part of the CEO’s office, there was no agreement of any kind that we [commissioners] have ever seen or ever been involved in,” Gannon said.
In July 2012, Ellis was named in a lawsuit over a land displacement permit for the proposed subdivision. Five months later, the county gave Buckler permission to proceed with part of the subdivision, and the lawsuit was dropped.
“The owner said he had filed a lawsuit against the CEO and then agreed to drop it if they would settle and give him a permit,” MacGregor said. “That doesn’t seem like the right thing to do me. Is that the way permits are now issued in DeKalb County?”