Tucker denies rental townhome project following resident outcry

The developer tried to strike a zoning condition that limited rental units
This is a rendering of a potential townhome project in Tucker.

Credit: City of Tucker

Credit: City of Tucker

This is a rendering of a potential townhome project in Tucker.

An 80-unit townhome project is on the horizon in Tucker, but the developer will have to settle for selling most of the homes rather than renting them.

Developer Rocklyn Homes envisioned a fully rental townhome community at 3281 Tucker Norcross Road. The 8-acre slice of land, located near Tucker’s border with unincorporated DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, has remained a partially developed eyesore for years.

At a Monday council meeting, neighbors said they were staunchly opposed to removing a zoning condition that limits the number of units that can be occupied by renters. The City Council unanimously sided with residents, denying Rocklyn Homes’ request to strip that condition.

“Homeowners is a much longer-term investment in the community by the owners than renters ever are,” Councilwoman Pat Soltys said during the meeting. “And I would strongly advocate that we try to keep that (property) for owners.”

City staff has described the land as a problem dating back to the late 1970s. A proposed tennis center never came to fruition, and the property was rezoned in the early 2000s for a townhome development. The land changed hands several times, with many residential projects failing to get off the ground.

In 2015, DeKalb modified dozens of conditions that had been placed on the property and included a clause that only 25% of units built could be rented. Tucker, founded in 2016, inherited those zoning conditions.

Rocklyn Homes, based in Duluth, acquired the property last year and began construction on the land. Den Webb, an attorney representing the developer, said costs have exceeded expectations by 36%. He said that prompted the company to try to make every unit rentable.

Several residents made it clear they don’t want rental communities in that area of town.

“It’s not going to help to bring in another rental community,” Jody Steinberg, a DeKalb resident who lives near the property, said during the meeting. “It might in different areas, but this not an area that needs rental townhomes.”

Webb, who indicated the townhome community would be built regardless of the council’s decision, argued these rental townhomes would be a different product type that could revitalize developer interest in the area. He added that Rocklyn Homes would hire a property management company to manage the tenants if the council approved their request.

“We don’t believe that condition was imposed to prevent what we’re talking about, which is one owner of a professionally managed townhome community,” Webb said. “It was really done to prevent multiple absentee landlords from overwhelming an HOA (homeowners association).”

The council said they received dozens of letters in opposition to Rocklyn Homes’ plan. Moments before voting to deny the company’s request, Councilwoman Michelle Penkava said she believed the rental-limiting condition should be honored.

“I feel like the market right now still supports the for-sale model,” she said. “If the condition wasn’t already there ... we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but it is there and I think it was for the right reason.”