By Jason Massad
In the end, Dunwoody became a “Smart city.” It originally wanted to be a “Smart place.”
In November, the city had to quickly scrap its newly adopted logo: “Dunwoody, Smart – people – Smart place.”
The reason: the economic development arm of Plano, Texas, uses the same tagline and let Dunwoody hear about it.
The hastily unveiled second logo became “Dunwoody, Smart – people – Smart – city.”
Despite the miscue – and around $4,000 worth of immediately outdated merchandise – the city moved forward with its branding effort.
The logo and its unveiling at the Dunwoody Music Festival were tied to the launch of a newly designed city website, which simultaneously promotes Dunwoody, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.
The common design element: an asterisk. The city’s was lime green. The Convention and Visitors Bureau was marked with a red asterisk. And the Chamber of Commerce was stamped with one that was mustard yellow.
The city’s blogosphere erupted – mainly in laughter. Many Internet posters called the logo corporate, staid and reminiscent of Walmart’s, with its distinctive, clean font and yellow star.
But the city stood by its new logo. It was a first step in branding effort to create a recognizable brand for the city’s residents, business owners and tourists alike, city officials said.
The logo was one of a number of important Dunwoody stories that occurred in 2010. The city was shocked by a recent homicide, Dunwoody is suing DeKalb County for millions of dollars city officials say is owed the 102-acre Brook Run Park, and city leaders are trying to lure the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to Dunwoody.
Not in our backyard
One of the largest crowds ever to attend a Dunwoody City Council meeting didn’t come to complain about rising taxes or government corruption. They came to talk about poultry.
Specifically, they came divided on a proposal that would have allowed residents to raise chickens in their suburban backyards. The proposal was defeated 4-3.
Mayor Ken Wright and councilmen Denis Shortal, Tom Taylor and Danny Ross voted against families raising chicken as pets.
The vote went against a staff recommendation, which had done nationwide research on the issue.
In the end, it seems that the council listened to Dunwoody’s anti-chicken cadre that said farm type-stuff belongs on a farm, not in a quiet neighborhood. But Ross, a long-time supporter of preserving the city’s history, said there may be a place one day for people to see farm animals at the Dunwoody Farmhouse.
In November, Russell Sneiderman, a businessman and father of two, was shot in the parking lot outside Dunwoody Prep, in the heart of Dunwoody.
A suspect fled in a silver minivan with no license plate, leaving a family to grieve over what Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan described as a “cold, calculated murder.”
There have been no leads announced in the case.
In July, Roger and Dorothy Abbott were found killed after firefighters responded to a blaze at the couple’s home at 1962 Peeler Road.
Police don’t think the slayings were random. They have said the evidence indicates the couple may have known the suspect or suspects involved.
This month, police released a sketch of a man considered to be a “person of interest” in the case.
At the beginning of 2010, a 74-year-old Dunwoody woman died in a fire that the DeKalb County Fire Department failed to investigate properly.
The incident led to the resignation of DeKalb’s chief David Foster, and spurred discussions about whether Dunwoody should create its own fire department.
At 102 acres, the park’s possibilities are endless, say city officials. However, possibilities require money to make them a reality. And here’s the rub. The city acquired Brook Run Park via a state law that allowed them to purchase it for approximately $10,000.
At the same time, five other parks became the responsibility of Dunwoody.
Meanwhile, a $96-million bond package passed by DeKalb County in 2005 promised Brook Run millions, according to city officials. About $7 million of that promise has still yet to be paid to Dunwoody for future improvements, according to city estimates.
DeKalb County sees it differently. Its representatives say that that nothing was specifically promised to a park that now exists outside its jurisdiction.
It could be a long, expensive legal battle. The city has hired Leah Ward Sears, a former Georgia Supreme Court Justice, to follow the money. Dunwoody officials have filed suit demanding what they say is their share of taxpayer-supported bonds.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not to allow into the city a Chick-fil-A restaurant, a Southern fast-food staple. The restaurant chain wants to open a new restaurant on Dunwoody Club Drive and Mount Vernon Highway.
But residents are split on the idea. Some neighbors welcomed the restaurant. Others – and the influential Dunwoody Homeowners Association – sought to shoot down the zoning change. Opponents say a proposed double-lane drive-through would create traffic and the commercial zone that the restaurant is asking for could allow unintended uses that are not wanted in the city, like a taxi-cab stand, in the future.
Dunwoody Police rely on DeKalb County for its dispatch, and that’s left city leaders in a quandary. To wit: Are they getting the best service at the best price?
City Manager Warren Hutmacher recommended that the city join ChatComm, a joint venture between Sandy Springs and Johns Creek that costs both cities money.
The reason is that the service for the two communities consistently costs more than the revenues the two local governments receive from telephone fees that support the service.
Knowing that, Dunwoody joining the local ChatComm service would reduce subsidies the governments now pour into the operation.
However, late in the year, DeKalb County officials sat down for serious talks with Dunwoody that could add a dedicated dispatcher to support Dunwoody police calls.
In December, the DeKalb County Commission approved an 11 percent a year rate increase for water and sewer users that take effect from 2012 to 2014.
The rate increase will support a $1.35 billion water and sewer capital upgrade program. Along with the improvements, DeKalb County will be on the hook for a $453,000 civil penalty to account for more than 800 sewage spills during the last five years.
The county, and its water users, will also pay $600,000 for cleanup efforts of the South River, Snapfinger Creek and the south fork of Peachtree Creek.
The bulk of the financing for the more than $1 billion in capital improvements will come from selling bonds that will be repaid over 30 years, according to county officials.
The commissioners approved the capital improvement program one day after the county had reached an agreement with federal Justice Department and state and environmental regulators.
The DeKalb County School Board received in an injection of new blood in the November election, following the ouster of several top school administrators who are indicted on corruption charges.
In District 1, newcomer Nancy Jester bested incumbent Jim Redovian in a runoff race. Jester, a former financial actuarial, ran on a platform of reforming the district, which has had its accreditation threatened and is facing sweeping changes as new attendance lines are drawn and schools are shuttered as part of an upcoming redistricting plan.
The district is reeling from scandal. Former superintendent Crawford Lewis and Patricia Reed, the district’s chief financial officer, are indicted on charges of bribery and racketeering that center around funneling school building contracts to insiders.
And why not? The city’s incorporation and its break away from DeKalb County puts the city government in charge of paving streets, redeveloping key areas of the city and creating parks that are better and more cared for than they were under the old regime.
There has been no shortage of meetings on how the city’s parks should evolve and how Dunwoody Village and the Georgetown shopping area should be redeveloped.
It’s too early to gauge the results. In Dunwoody Village, the “historic heart” of the city to some, the city has been pushing a mixed-use development that could support boutique retail and townhomes in the next five to 10 years.
However, Dunwoody organizations have been staunch in their support for established, single-family, residential neighborhoods.
One mark of a new city – Dunwoody was incorporated in late 2008 – is that it has to wrestle with restrictions on sometimes gaudy, sometimes large, sometimes cheap signs.
In November, Dunwoody City Council approved a sign ordinance that was in the making for more than a year. Mayor Ken Wright commented that it was not a job you would wish on “your worst enemy.”
The ordinance is a 30-page rule book that outlaws plastic signs that are lighted from the inside and seeks to replace them with upscale signs that are displayed with lights from the outside.
The upshot: nothing is going to change quickly. As the old signs wear out and are no longer useful, they will be replaced by newer signs.
Meanwhile, the city also restricted outdoor lighting so its residents can more clearly see the night sky.
At least, that’s the idea of the “green” rule. Some lights will be pointed down, turned off and otherwise kept from glaring onto other properties.