Dean Gardens – RIP
Once the jewel of Johns Creek, the demise of Dean Gardens culminated last year, and today it looks like a war zone.
Over 20 years ago, Mr. Larry Dean spent many millions to build the estate. He imported antique fountains from Italy, installed more than 1 million pounds of imported stone for the hardscaping, and over 1 million plants. The one-of-a-kind gardens and uncommon array of horticulture was a gem in Johns Creek, the inside was an eclectic mix of over the top design, an inspiration for any number of exploits of the rich and famous.
Over the years, it sought a new buyer, from the late Michael Jackson, to finally Tyler Perry, who sought to build a new eco-estate with an organic farm. Hurdles impeded that dream and he sold to Lennar Homes.
Neighbors attention was distracted during a double rezoning effort, with the Atlanta Athletic Club rezoning case overwhelming adjoining subdivisions.
Many neighboring residents did not attend the hearing and vote upon fear of losing disputed fence-line buffer land that was unofficially given to them by the previous owner, Larry Dean. In calming fears over the development, Lennar offered to let the neighbors keep the few feet of additional land without contest.
This promise is still outstanding, and it is unclear when the developer will come clean on this promise. Other residents stated they were told not to oppose the development or they would have an apartment complex, which had been previously proposed a decade earlier.
A handful of area residents stood forth to oppose this development, the increase of traffic on an already congested road, and most importantly the loss of a unique, pastoral and beautiful piece of riverfront land.
Tossing and tussling ensued over the finer details by council members. Former Councilman Brad Raffensperger insisted on side yard setbacks larger than five feet as the homes were so close together that homeowners would be liable for bodily injuries if neighbors conducted repairs and an accident occurred on the property.
Councilman Lenny Zaprowski presented himself in favor of 1 house per acre as the Land Use Plan indicates, but subsequently changed his mind after the Mayor called for a restroom break. Mayor Mike Bodker advocated for 70 homes, to make the project financially viable for the developer. The Mayor’s opinion was that the land should become another dense residential subdivision.
Councilwoman Cori Davenport initially voted against the rezoning and with some confusion, another vote followed with her yes vote. Kelly Stewart and Brad Raffensberger voted to oppose the rezoning.
Although Lennar was granted approval to squeeze 70 homes on 20 of the 58 total acres, they now can only fit 64. This construction requires bulldozing and demolishing the beautiful and unique gardens along the Chattahoochee River. The remaining 38 acres of land are deemed too unstable to build upon, leaving the dense clusters of azaleas in the center of the property, pond and trees along the periphery.
It was sold for $9.2 million to Lennar by Baronne Trust, AKA Tyler Perry.
The land was classified as ‘transitional areas’ in the City of Johns Creek Land Use Plan. This controversial terminology was changed afterwards to ‘Distinctive areas’ through a consent agenda item during a city council meeting a few months later.
Too little too late as area residents motion away the construction dust and chase off foxes that escaped the demolition.
Interestingly, Dean Gardens was recommended in the City’s Green Plan as a Riverfront Park and Picnic Area, and had $10million identified for such land. The City hired a new consultant to draw a new Park Plan, as larger parcels of available land in the city continue to dwindle. See that popular post: Yawn…Another Park Study.
Excellent Pictures and descriptions of the estate and gardens can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/DeanGardens
Wow, what a fantastic park it COULD have been. RIP Dean Gardens.
Hello Bayard Subdivision: more homes & cars on Old Alabama Rd.
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