DeKalb community fights plans for new subdivision

by: Rachel Stockman Updated:

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

The Dekalb County Development Department put a temporary work stop to a controversial project in a historical area of the Druid Hills community. But the developer of the project says the bulldozers are scheduled to hit the ground on Clifton Road near Oxford Road in a matter of days.  

The temporary work stoppage comes after pressure from two Dekalb County commissioners, as well as from the Druid Hills Civic Association.

“This is the most important thing we have dealt with in the past 10 years,” said Bruce MacGregor, president of the Druid Hills Civic Association.

MacGregor, along with about 100 neighbors who signed a petition, contend the developer, Robert Buckler, did not obtain the proper approval to build a subdivision in a historic area.   Buckler plans to divide the property into seven lots, cut down trees, construct a road and put in a cul de sac for the subdivision.

“This would set a precedent for breaking up the large lots in Druid Hills,” MacGregor said.

The Dekalb History Center and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Committee have both acknowledged that this area is part of a historic district. According to a letter from the executive director of DeKalb History Center, the plot was laid out under the guidance of Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape designer who also designed New York City’s Central Park.

When asked about the controversy, Buckler provided Channel 2 Action News with a “Certificate of Appropriateness” and a “Land Development Permit,” which he says allow him to move forward with the project.

Over the weekend, DeKalb County put a temporary stop to the project so that the issues can be worked out. However, Burke Brennan, a spokesperson for DeKalb County government, believes the permits were properly granted. 

“This is a fairly narrow stop order; it's just for a couple of days,” said Brennan. “We have pledged to go back and take another look to make sure, but we believe it has been done lawfully and correctly.”

Dekalb County commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader wrote a letter opposing the project to the DeKalb Board of Zoning Appeals. They wrote in part, “The owner must follow all ordinances: zoning, land development and historic preservation. He cannot choose which ordinances to obey.”

Buckler says that is exactly what he did and he plans to go through with his project.  It is not clear how the stop order will stay in effect.

“As of Wednesday, I can start cutting down trees, I guess,” Buckler said.

Neighbors, meanwhile, pledge to keep fighting the development.

“I think it’s not just for the people who live here, but I think having a beautiful neighborhood in Atlanta, with all the tree is part of what Atlanta is,” said Elizabeth May, a neighbor who is opposed to the project.