By Maggie Lee

DeKalb County’s north precinct on Ashford-Dunwoody Road will move out of Dunwoody now that city has its own police force and the county officials plan to replace it with a building double its size near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

However, the prominent county-owned building in Dunwoody will continue to be used by DeKalb County law enforcement because a land deal that put it in their hands doesn’t allow the county to walk away without losing the property.

Under an agreement dating from the early 1980s, if the county police force doesn’t use the small plot of land across from Perimeter Mall, they are obligated to return it to the original developer, Houston-based Hines Interests.

That was part of the deal that saw DeKalb County grant Hines the zoning they needed to turn a property that was originally part of the Spruill farm into the Ravinia mixed-use office complex, which was completed in 1985.

So, “only because we still own that property, we’ll use it,” said DeKalb County Police Chief William O’Brien.

DeKalb County, however, won’t use the building to house a working police precinct.

DeKalb deputies no longer are responsible for patrolling the neighborhoods around the office park. In the spring of 2009, Dunwoody’s police force was created. It is in charge of protecting city residents.

O’Brien said it’s too early to say what police functions might move into the building, but he speculated that something like the county’s gang task force could be a good fit to relocate to the property. However, that’s just an off-the-cuff suggestion, O’Brien said.

Meanwhile, the precinct’s relocation near Buford Highway won’t happen soon.

DeKalb County Sheriff’s officials have only convened one meeting with the building’s designers to discuss the department’s needs. A groundbreaking wouldn’t happen before summer.

The precinct building to replace the one on Ashford-Dunwoody Road will be located near Clairmont Road and Buford Highway, adjacent to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

Some residents in DeKalb County welcome the relocation of the precinct.

“Let’s roll,” says Jodi Cobb, president of the Drew Valley Civic Association, representing a 900-house neighborhood practically across the street from the new site.

She said it’s a nice “psychological thing” to think they’re so close.

The chief is looking for a design of as much as 15,000-square-feet building, which is roughly double the precinct building on Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

So far, the county has decided to sell $2.9 million in bonds for the relocation. A federal grant will pay for part of the interest on those bonds.