Residents of Lakeview Oaks subdivision packed a recent Dunwoody City Council work session hoping to convince the council that building baseball fields in Brook Run Park is a mistake.
During the meeting’s public comment portion, homeowners expressed anger that the current parks plan calls for removing trees at Brook Run Park to make way for three baseball fields.
The bond issue for the city’s parks plan was one of several referendums Dunwoody City Council mulled at its May 9 work session that will go before voters in November: funding for parks, transportation and the option of Sunday alcohol sales.
“For a city that’s trying to be a green city, this does not set a good example,” said Lakeview Oaks resident Gerri Penn.
Diane Contino said while she supports building more baseball fields, Brook Run is not the place to do it.
“To put these baseball fields in Brook Run, acres of beautiful hardwood oaks would be destroyed,” she said. “Let’s find an area where we don’t have to destroy to create.”
One resident voiced support for Brook Run baseball fields. Rick Callihan told council members that many of his friends and neighbors take their children to play baseball in DeKalb County and Sandy Springs because Dunwoody does not have adequate facilities.
Chuck Ellet told council members it will be difficult to ask voters to approve millions for the parks plan if city officials are not in agreement.
“That’s just going to alienate people you want to vote for these park bond issues,” he said. “We need a united front.”
The comments led into the council’s discussion of a bond referendum for parks and transportation planned for the city’s November election.
The council will put before voters a proposal to finance long-range projects with millions in bond funding. If approved, city taxes could go up by 1.5 mills, which would increase property taxes on a $300,000 house by about $180 per year.
City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser said after a recent walk through Brook Run, she agrees with residents that the parks plan must change.
“To say I was appalled at what I saw was an understatement,” Bonser said. “Trees 80 to 90 years old marked with blue spray paint for destruction. It was a heart-wrenching sight.”
Bonser encouraged other council members to walk through Brook Run Park to look at the land survey before making up their minds on the parks plan.
“It would be a scar for this city we could not recover from in this lifetime,” Bonser said.
City Councilman Danny Ross called the current proposal a “slash and burn parks plan” and suggested using money to buy more park land.
“I’m going to vote against it, and furthermore I’m going to work hard against any bond issue that supports it,” Ross said. “I’m in favor of a bond referendum for parks but only if we have the right parks plan.”
Mayor Ken Wright argued that some council members were ignoring the needs of residents.
“There is another side,” Wright said. “We don’t have any green space on the north side.”
On bond funding for the city’s long range transportation plan, council members agreed that it may be best to ask voters to approve a more modest bond issue for transportation.
“If we brought in a quarter of a mill, $11 million, no it wouldn’t get our (transportation project) list done, but it would make a major dent,” said City Councilman Doug Thompson. “I’d like to see what happens with T-SPLOST.”
T-SPLOST, a proposed regional 1-cent sales tax that will go before voters in 2012, if approved, would bring an estimated $1 million a year to Dunwoody for transportation projects.
“This is going to be a tough decision. Our residents have to see value in what we’re doing because it’s going to be a tough sell,” said City Councilman John Heneghan.
Council members also agreed to put the option of Sunday alcohol sales before voters on the November ballot.